In our modern world we have a strange habit when comes to words. In some cases words become naturally obsolete and rarely used. There are also instances where the original meaning of a word is totally changed or forgotten.
The word tolerance is one of these interesting words. A traditional dictionary definition of tolerance is “the willingness to accept behaviour and beliefs that are different from your own, although you might not agree with or approve of them.” Note there is a difference between acceptance and agreement or approval.
Today, tolerance is forgotten due to the overemphasis of its opposite intolerance. Now, if you disagree with my beliefs or my life choices, you are said to be intolerant and worse you might be labeled hateful. Tolerance has lost its meaning and importance in our radically individualistic culture.
Religion is another one of those words. It is rare today to hear anyone admit, even some Christians, that they are religious. A more common refrain might be, “I’m not religious but I’m spiritual.” We have come to shy away from the word simply because of bad or poor examples of religion or religious people despite the fact there are far more good examples.
There are just 5 instances of the word in the New Testament and only one definition of the word. The brother of Jesus, James wrote, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction,” James 1:27a.
For James and the early church, orphans and widows were just two examples of those who were disenfranchised and seen as the most needy in their culture. Throughout history, the Christian church has practiced this definition of religion and does to this day.
This religion began because God felt that the greatest need the whole world had was his love and forgiveness, which would bring healing to our broken lives. He visited us in Jesus and gave us a religion worth believing in and making known.
Maybe you will agree that religion is a good word and good for our troubled world when defined this way.
Glenn Davies – Lead Pastor
The Rock Church