NORMAN — Flu season is here. Emergency rooms, clinics and doctor’s offices are filled with people seeking relief. News reports are using words like “epidemic” to describe this year’s flu season and some communities have closed their school doors for a few days. The flu is serious and can even be deadly, claiming at least 20 children and dozens of adults over these past weeks. Have you had your flu shot? While not a 100 percent guarantee, the flu shot offers significant prevention against the flu.
Vaccines are one of the marvels of modern medicine. While still controversial among some, the data demonstrates that vaccines have been vital in reducing and even eliminating death from measles, polio and other diseases. Now, cancer vaccines are offering the same hope. Vaccines introduce dead or “weakened” viruses into the body so that the natural immune system can recognize and attack them, thus being able to “remember” and destroy the live virus if it is introduced into the body.
While in the physical realm vaccines are life-saving, some suggest the opposite when applied to the spiritual realm. Dead or weakened religion has inoculated many against real or true religion. In many circles today, religion has become a “bad thing.” How many times have you heard or said, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual?” Yet, James 1:27 declares “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: To look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” That sounds like a good thing. The problem is not with religion, the problem is with bad religion. And, when exposed to bad religion, it often serves as a “vaccine” against pure religion.
Unlike some medical vaccines, there is no shortage of bad religion vaccines. Religion that promotes legalism and meaningless ritualism is bad. So too is religion that embraces selfish consumerism, prideful arrogance and blatant hypocrisy. This kind of religion oppresses and may be part of the explanation as to why so many are avoiding church.
What we need is more good religion. Good religion is based on humble service to others. The Apostle Paul in Philippians 2 says “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. …Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Certainly this means “orphans and widows in distress,” but also includes and calls us to serve, help and share with all those in need
Good religion also is reflected in good character. James describes this as “keeping oneself from being polluted by the world.” Pollution stinks. And when our lives are polluted by selfishness, immorality and injustice they stink. Called “sin” in the Bible, this pollution rots and creates darkness in our lives and communities. Jesus comes to free us from this bondage, enabling us to experience transformation and abundant life. Our new found liberty then flourishes in service to others. This is good religion.
So, have you had your flu shot? It’s not too late to see a physician. But more importantly, have you been inoculated with bad religion? If so, it is time to get well. Don’t let this dead or weakened form of religion keep polluting your life. There are wonderful churches in Norman that practice good religion. What is keeping you from finding one this weekend? The Great Physician awaits.