While you might think I'm talking about some settings in Microsoft Word, since I just completed my first day at Microsoft, that's not what this post is about. Talk about Microsoft will come later.
This morning, I was reading from the Book of James in the Bible, looking for some inspiration before I start my second day of work at Microsoft Research. There's a lot of things I'm sorting out in my head -- in particular, the reason why I'm here instead of still being in Italy. I already have some simple and obvious answers, but I'm searching for some of the more subtle reasons that, when found, really give you certainty that God really wanted you to do something or be somewhere.
I've also been thinking about what it means to be a Christian in a place of prosperity -- where I no longer stand out from the crowd and I'm no longer considered an international (or foreigner). I'm stuck somewhere between native and non-native, not quite feeling understood by either. What does it mean to be a Christian here?
James 1:27 (NLT) reads like 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." Who are these widows and orphans? What is their distress?
Literally speaking, an orphan's distress is not having a father (or mother). The orphan experiences loneliness and lack of direction -- lack of encouragement; lack of affection. Lack of someone to trust or hope in. And the widow? The widow once had a companion -- someone to experience life with and make decisions with. Someone who was at home with them at night and perhaps someone they saw last in the evening and first in the morning.
Widows and orphans. Their needs are great and often their hope is gone. This verse talks about what's important "in the sight of God the Father." A father. An orphan needs a father. A widow was united with her child's father before losing him. Caring for widows and orphans means being like a father. That's something I can relate to as a married man with a baby girl.
But is James just talking about these widows and orphans? It's easy to understand who they are. I think James is using this as an important example of the needs in the society he was living in. These were the people whose needs were greatest. But again, I think that this is an example of how we are to care for people in our community. Orphans in international communities can be the foreigners who don't have a place to fit in -- who might otherwise feel unwelcome or abandoned in this new society.
So, who are these widows and orphans in this new community I'm living in? Even if it's just a few months, "practicing my religion" is just as important as heading to work, which I'm going to do right now.