The Gift of Presence

“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,” (Jms. 1:27).

Visiting overtly needy people such as orphans and widows, those who have lost a child, those whose house has burned down or been flooded is uncomfortable; we don’t know what to say or do. The amazing thing is that just the gift of our presence is what James calls for. Just go!

I once read about a child whose little friend got sick and died. She asked her mother if she could go next door and visit the mother of her lost friend. When she returned her mother asked, “What did you say?” The child’s response was priceless. “Oh, mommy, I didn’t say anything. I just cried with her.”

It is humbling to realize that our very presence is comforting to those in affliction. It speaks of noticing, first of all. “I know that you are hurting.” Then it communicates concern and sympathy. “I care that you are hurting. I am sad along with you.” Without saying anything our presence communicates those messages.

James goes on to say that pure, undefiled religion is to keep ourselves unstained from the world. The challenge: without adopting the language, morals and philosophy of those around us to engage fully with them, to know them, love them, bless them, be in a position to present the Gospel as we are prompted to do so.

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