A glimpse of pure religion in Haiti

Published 9:29 pm Friday, October 11, 2013

By Rev. Dr. Chris Surber

A few weeks ago, I locked eyes with a barefoot, dust-covered, impoverished Haitian girl as she walked along the side of a road wearing a shirt I wouldn’t use to wash my car and white shorts turned dark brown, likely from weeks of wear.

After we stared at each other for several seconds and as I passed slowly by in the back of a truck, she gave a tiny half-smile and waved. I smiled and waved back.

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She and I are both pilgrim travelers through this messy, muck-filled life, and I will always have that moment in my mind’s eye.

A few feet away was a filthy stream, the bank littered with garbage, and in the background were half-grown banana trees planted with the help of agricultural missionaries.

Her eyes contained, as did her surroundings, a painful optimism. There is hope for the future, even in the midst of present disorder.

I am not a saint, but I love God. I am not a grand humanitarian, but I love humanity. I am not pure, but my heart breaks to be purer in my love for God and for people everywhere.

My wife and I are in love with the beautiful people of this broken place. Being on mission to Haiti has become a necessary part of our life.

When I am in Haiti it’s easy to feel like a saint, because the people in Haiti are so appreciative of the people who come to help them. It’s even easy to appear to be a saint because of the fact that so many people who could go in Jesus’ name to help in places like Haiti just won’t get out of their chairs to do so.

But it isn’t comparison that makes something pure. Being more willing or able to go on behalf of God than someone else who can’t or won’t doesn’t make me a saint. In fact, most people who think that way fall into the trap of pride and self-righteousness.

The rightness or wrongness or indifference of our attitudes and religious inclinations are not defined by comparison. If they were, then anyone who is better than anyone else may rightly consider himself or herself a saint.

Thankfully, when it comes to the purity of our motives toward goodness, God has given us a more concrete standard.

The Bible says this: “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)

Pure religion demonstrates itself as a hand outstretched to help those in the greatest need.

We don’t get to heaven because of how pure we are, but when we have a pure understanding of godly religion, the world gets a little bit of heaven through us.

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at www.chrissurber.com.