The Gentleness of Religion

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27 NLT

One phone call, and in a few hours groceries sat on the front porch.

Just a few blocks from my paternal grandparents’ home was Stroman’s Grocery. The brick shotgun building, like most Mom and Pop stores, didn’t take up much square footage but housed a variety of items. My great-grandmother, who lived with my grandparents, loved to order her sodas and a few other items from Stroman’s. Why I’m not sure, since my grandfather made a daily trip to Piggly Wiggly. 

I’m sure Mr. Stroman made a profit on his sales, but I’m also sure he cared more about his customers than he did his profit. After all, that’s what Mom and Pop store owners did. Customers weren’t just another face in a crowd as they are in present-day retail stores. Customers were friends, fellow church-goers, neighbors, and even relatives. Not only did the store owners know their customers’ names, but they often knew their customers’ children.

Whether or not Mr. Stroman was a religious man, I’m not sure, but he did what James defined as true religion: took care of orphans and widows. And my great-grandmother was a widow.  

James’ definition of true religion fights against some of the definitions I’ve heard. For some, religion means obeying a stated group of laws and traditions. Many of them manmade. For others, religion entails occupying a church facility every time the doors are open. Still others think true religion is whatever they make it out to be.

James parrots Jesus who attempted to understand people’s situations rather than judging them or avoiding them as so many of the hypocritical religious leaders did. Understanding people challenges the best of us, but loving them means we must attempt to understand their situations rather than cast a judging glance.

When we’ve adopted true religion, we’ll ask God for opportunities to help others and for the spiritual awareness to see those opportunities when He sends them. God is more than willing to send them, but busyness and selfishness can keep us from seeing them when they materialize before us.

True religion also means doing something. We can’t do everything. No one can. The opportunities for doing good are too numerous. But we can do something—the something that God wants us to do. And we can do it with gentleness, as Mr. Stroman did.  

Ask God to show you how to observe pure religion with gentleness. And when He does, take advantage of the opportunities He sends.

Martin Wiles

Martin lives in Greenwood, SC, and is the Managing Editor for Christian Devotions (, the Senior Editor for Inspire-a-Fire, and a Proof Editor for Courier Publishing. He is an author, English teacher, minister, and freelance editor. He is the founder of Love Lines from God and the author of six books, including his most recent, A Whisper in the Woods: Quiet Escapes for a Noisy World. He has also been published in numerous publications. He and his wife are parents of two and grandparents of three. He can be contacted at

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