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. (James 1:27 NIV).

How often have we heard this verse but really only digested the first portion? Reading on, it’s a two-fer: a balance and a tension between social justice and personal integrity. Too often throughout history, the church has divided into camps, turning the “and” into an “or.” When some see the balance and some see the tension, we all miss the beautiful messiness of living in the in-between. But the wrong conjunction here creates an opportunity for us.

Many years ago, the South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu called on the church to unite both sides of the messy conjunction: “Apartheid is too strong for a divided church,” he declared. When we at African Leadership use the phrase “INVESTdeep,” this sense of living in a chaotic and challenging reality is very present. We work with the leaders of Africa’s small- and medium-sized churches to offer a community-based two-year Bible college program that encourages leaders and students alike to LIVEdeep in their faith. These men and women come to understand more of what it means to lead lives of integrity, shedding the world’s constant messages of “pollution.”

Many of you have also supported our work aimed at reaching the most marginalized communities in Africa, including women and children “in distress.” Frankly, some days it would simply be easier to just do one or the other: to focus on helping orphans and widows in these communities or to strive to eliminate the pollution of the world in these communities. But at the end of the day, we have a clear statement of that which is seen to be pure and faultless. Like you, we are on a journey to that place of unity. Let’s take that trip together. Speaking of trips, we’ve got several forming for later this year and early next. Drop me an email if you’d like more information. I’d love a chance to show you how this verse comes to life in Africa.