I am sure most Christians have read James 1:27 which says that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.“ We all probably know what keeping ourselves unstained or undefiled as some translations put it but what about the “pure religion” part? In the first place, keeping ourselves unstained can mean many things. Thankfully Jesus’ righteousness is imputed toward us, on our account, in our behalf (Rom 3:26) made possible only because “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).
Pure Religion is….
So how does God the Father view pure religion? It may not be what we think it is. It is not about acting pious, having good behavior, having perfect church attendance or always saying the right thing. No, love is active, deed-oriented, action-induced, and results-driven. And this is where the nursing home comes in. At one Bible study I asked the residents, “How many you are today orphans and widows?” Every single one of the hands went up except an elderly man. He said that he was a widower. I could say that James might include that pure religion is visiting the orphans, widows, and widowers and still be right. Just think of this…everyone in almost every nursing home are orphans and widows or widowers because their parents have long since died and most living there have outlived their spouses. Even for those who still have their spouses, their parents are likely deceased. In the facility that I go to, about 3 in 10 residents there have no family to visit them and no friends who come to see them which means that they are exceedingly lonely.
Society seems to think of these precious people as castoffs or as having no more use in society but that could not be further from the truth. These men and women (a few are not that old and simply disabled) are so lonely and seeking meaningful conversations. They have so much of their life to share and so much wisdom to offer but no one to share it with. What a waste. So many of these men and women are lonely and so I see why Paul says we should “weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15) because this is how we “contribute to the needs of the saints” (Rom 12:13) and we can be “the one who does acts of mercy” (Rom 12:8).
This is truly a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1). My problem with being a living sacrifice is that I keep crawling off the altar. Talk is cheap but deeds is true love. The Apostle John said that we should “not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Love is a verb…it’s what you do, not what you say. I am not saying that words are not important but actions always speak a lot louder than words. My children often never really heard my words because my actions were drowning them out.
Start Your Own Nursing Home Ministry
You can start your very own nursing home ministry and I can tell you from experience, fewer things are more rewarding to a believer. Start with making an appointment with the nursing home administrator. Then talk to the Activity Director and see what he or she thinks. These are the first steps in beginning such a ministry. I just dove into it with no experience, but today I come early before our regular Wednesday night Bible study and look for new residents and new staff. I search for and seek out those who are frequently sitting alone. Today, I love the look of their faces when I come into the facility. Their faces just light up. They adore having someone who cares for them, who talks with them, who listens to them, and prays for them. A large number of nursing home residents love to hear the Bible read to them and that is what I primarily do during my studies there. I use a loud, booming voice when reading the Bible because many are hard of hearing.
Practice pure religion by visiting the orphans and widows and this includes shut-ins who can no longer attend church. That’s why I bring church to them! Genuinely care for them and talk to them, listen to them, and you will begin to love them. Just dive into a ministry by first talking with the resident administrator. You can’t learn to swim by just sticking your toe in the water…you have to jump in. I can promise you that you will get such enjoyment out of this. Certainly many residents will also enjoy it but don’t expect everyone to just warm up to you immediately. There are a few who think I’m a young “whipper snapper” (at age 60!). I love hearing the words, “Hello young man.” Familiarity takes time and effort but if you are serious about visiting the orphans, widows, and widowers, then you’ll find yourself practicing pure religion and this is most certainly pleasing to God the Father (James 1:27).
Jack Wellman is Senior Writer at What Christians Want to Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believers daily walk with God and the Bible.