Friday night I was thinking about why we are sometimes opposed to things that are not described as wrong in the Bible. Immediately I thought about 1 Thessalonians 5:22. In the King James Version of the Bible it is translated “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” I was thinking about the phrase “appearance of evil” and began to think about Jesus’s life. He repeatedly did things that appeared wrong. One example I thought of is when He ate with tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:13-17). Another example is when the woman “washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair” (Luke 7:36-50). The Pharisees were constantly watching Jesus, picking apart everything He did, trying to find sin in Him. He didn’t change His ways just because they thought He was doing something wrong.
I was curious as to how we are supposed to follow Jesus, who did things that made Him look like He was involved in evil, and also abstain from all appearance of evil at the same time. I looked up 1 Thessalonians 5:22 in the ESV, and is says:
Abstain from every form of evil.
I looked at Meyer’s NT Commentary that gives the original Greek words and then explains them. The word translated “appearance”in the KJV is Εἶδος (now don’t ask me how to say that, that’s a question for Kevin). Εἶδος means kind, like a species. It was translated “form” in the ESV. The commentary brought out some good points. You cannot control how other people see your actions. You may be doing something good and someone else looks at it from a different perspective and thinks what you are doing is bad. People do this to God all the time, so you know they are going to do it to Christians as well. The other point the commentary brought out is that we cannot abstain from evil without the help of God! 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says:
Now may the God of peace of himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.
We have to keep the verses in context. The verses before 1 Thessalonians 5:22 talk about doing good, and the verse after it talk about God keeping you blameless. We cannot go through life always worried about what people think of our actions. We must follow God with humility and love.
After learning all of this, I was wondering what that means for me. Do I throw all caution to the wind? How do I live in light of this knowledge? It is a relief to me that I don’t have to live in a system of legalism so that I don’t appear evil. I have freedom to talk to anyone without second guessing myself. It doesn’t matter if those I associate with make me appear evil. God knows my heart and He will put people in my path who need to hear about and experience the love of God through me. I am also challenged not to be so quick in judging the actions of others. Just because something appears to be wrong does not mean that it is.