Throughout much of the Middle East it is illegal to convert to Christianity from Islam. And yet hundreds of Muslims break that law willingly. A church near the Syrian border has recently baptized over 800 converts. One couple explained their decision before the judge: “When we lived in Syria the Muslims in ISIS murdered three quarters of our family before we could escape. But here, the Christians have done nothing but love us, shelter us, feed us and clothe us. So, tell us: Why shouldn’t convert?”
The judge dismissed the charges and let them go.
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. (1 Peter 2:15)
In truth, it’s not what you say that matters; it’s what you do. That’s the test. It’s not enough to sound religious, to say a bunch of holy things about God and stuff. It’s what you do that shows if you are spiritually alive.
“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 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. “ (James 1:26-27)
At first glance it sounds like James is saying, “Hey, watch your language around here, buddy…” But really, he is warning people not to sound religious to impress others or maybe even God. People may be fooled by that, but God isn’t impressed with lofty tones of voice and holy vocabulary. He cares about what He sees us do. Don’t misunderstand: we can’t earn our way into God’s favor with good works. But when we have His Spirit alive within us, we will show it as we tend to help others in distress. Even those like widows and orphans who, in that day, didn’t count for much. “Being polluted by the world,” in this context, means caring more about my own reputation among the influential people than I do about someone else with real needs.
These two verses drag me across coals of regret. I wince to read about keeping a close rein on my tongue. But that’s why I need these verses. And why I need grace.
Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. ( Mat 6:1-4 – ESV)