Friday, June 24, 2011

Avoiding the Appearance of Evil?

Author: Susan L. Prince

"Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil." (1 Thess. 5:19-22 KJV) has often been used to caution Christians about doing anything that might look like sinful behavior to another, or further, might cause somebody to stumble in the faith.

The verse has always kind of bothered me because I am conscientious about my behavior and would never want somebody to stumble because of something they saw me doing. It also would bring up discussion about doing things that appear evil to one person, may not appear evil to another, we all have different opinions about what constitutes "questionable behavior," like going to the movies, or maybe into a bar, or what we watch on tv. 

 I often think about Jesus and his ministry and how he hung out with "sinners" and was around people who partook of wine at parties and spoke to tax collectors and prostitutes. If His behavior had the appearance of evil, how the heck am I going to avoid appearing evil? 

It's also interesting to note how different generations in the church view certain things. The older generation might say the guitar or drums in church is evil, or that rock music is "of the devil." Dancing or smoking a cigar might be a problem for some, or possibly having a tattoo, but when we start avoiding things that others' might deem "questionable," we start infringing on a believer's liberty in Christ. We can easily become legalistic and start calling things "unclean" that simply are inconsequential to God or are pure in His eyes. It also can cause us to start judging one another, our actions and motives, so I think properly understanding this verse is very important.

I heard something on the radio yesterday that brought this to the surface of my brain and I thought I'm going to research it. It turns out that I could only find the "appearance" term in the King James Version, and that in the translation I use, NIV, it says, "do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil." It says "avoid every kind of evil. Other translations use, "every form of evil," and I like what The Message says, "Throw out anything tainted with evil."

It became clear to me just from that little revelation, that Paul wasn't saying avoid questionable behavior, he was saying avoid anything sinful. It is important to weigh what is said, or prophesied, and determine if it is good or bad and if it is bad, avoid it!

"Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil." (1 Thess. 5:19-22)

I think it is better understood that we avoid evil, no matter how it appears to us, or in whatever form it takes. Evil can appear to us in many ways, even as "an angel of light," which is why we need to first determine if what we encounter is good or evil, and if it is evil, throw it out and run away!

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