Should the term orphan be abandoned? Maybe, it is often an inaccurate, outdated, and ostracizing term that many argue could be more appropriately expressed by “vulnerable children” or “children outside of parental care”. Whatever language we apply to refer to children without parents, this population group continues to exist in society despite our best collective attempts to change the condition. At-risk children are one of many groups who exist in our world who, due to choices made beyond their control, face a life of hardships, stigma, and exclusion.
James 1:27 names two groups in the New Testament era that suffered extreme hardships: orphans and widows. The point of this verse stands in direct opposition to how religious behavior is often observed and even, if we are being honest, measured. True religion is not about piety or ritual acts, but rather in caring for those lost in society, those discarded in their personhood because of societal norms, and those unable to help themselves obtain the necessities needed for living.
Putting religion into action involves selflessly helping and serving those who are not expected to reciprocate the service. True and undefiled religion is a gift that is freely given away without reward which is the behavior and attitudes we see modeled by Jesus. This is how as Christians we keep ourselves faultless in our faith and why this verse is not a command, but rather a description of what being a Christ follower means.
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