We had heard about the smog in China before going. You know that chemically-laden grey fog produced by the factories happily unhindered by the EPA. On our first full day in Hong Kong we saw the pollution cloud first hand, as it obscured our would-be picturesque view from Victoria’s Peak. “The wind brings it from the factories in mainland China,” our tour guide informed us. That day it was blowing in the wrong direction. Had it been a wind from another direction…the view would have been clear.
Once in Guangzhou, a city of numerous factories, it became difficult to tell whether the gray sky was filled with rain clouds or smog…or both. It was always there. After a while, we didn’t really even notice it that much anymore. We had unconsciously accepted it and the result: a limited view. Because of our obscured view, we were short-sighted and had blurred vision.
It wasn’t until we returned home that we realized how significant the pollution and its impact was. Kevin, Emma and I would marvel every time we stepped outside at how clear and crisp everything appeared. We could see to the end of our street! Were those treetops? And the sky! How blue and clear and sharp…the colors of the sunset! Unspeakable!
My mind has drifted back to the fast-acting and thorough impact of China’s pollution upon us many times over the last 2 or 3 weeks. James 1:27 keeps turning over in my mind…
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Religion that is pure and faultless is this: to care for widows and orphans in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by idols.
Yes, I typed it twice…honestly, in my brain, it is just on repeat. And then the following statement comes to mind…
The opposite of polluted is pure.
How can we keep ourselves pure?
James commands us to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world. It is a choice this verse tells me. I must decide to not be polluted by the world. I must pursue it, hunger after it. James 1:27 links purity with an action…the care of widows and orphans in their distress.
I think it is because, when we do, we: 1)See how much we have contrasted with the little we falsely think we have. 2)We see our idols of comfort, wealth, self for what they are…firewood. 3) We are challenged at our core to live our lives for what Jesus says matters in light of eternity.
I can’t fully explain the dynamic, but I have experienced the joy of caring for orphans. It makes me want to cast off with all my might every sin that entangles and throw every bit of my resources to their care. As I buy shoes, I think…this would support an orphan for a month. As I pay to fix my car, I think this is an orphan’s surgery. As I snuggle my babies, my heart breaks for the little ones who at this very moment have no mommy to sing over them. And it makes me hate sin and the pollution of this world and pray that the wind of the Spirit would blow over my heart and purify me. And to beg that I would not spend even one day satisfied with “gray skies.”
You see, while I was in smog-filled China, God gave me a glimpse of His clear, blue sky.
He showed me that all this time I have lived in the pollution of the world even though the air in my neck-of-the-woods is EPA clean. The western world…and might I say western Christianity…is so comfort driven. Nice house, full tummies, feel-good faith. The smog of the temporal blinding the joy of cross-centered life. Much like our experience when we got home, I didn’t realize the impact until I was removed from it. Then I could see more clearly and be astonished by the difference.
The unsettling difference is bumping around in my soul.
As we believers look after, visit, help, and care for widows and orphans through adoption, visiting and serving, and regularly giving to their physical, medical, spiritual needs we purify ourselves. The pollution of the world is blown away by the wind of the Spirit. We can see the world for what it is and our vision extends straight into the Father’s heart.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2: 15-17