The Appearance of Evil

Posted: April 13, 2021 in Uncategorized
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2 Thessalonians 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil

What does it mean not to give the appearance of evil?

Answer: Many Christians assume that to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22, KJV) is to avoid any behavior anyone might perceive as being evil. Not only do we flee from that which is evil, we flee from that which appears to be evil. For instance, a pastor should not be seen frequenting a bar because someone may think he is getting drunk. However, the actual meaning of this verse is a matter of some debate within Christianity.

Depending on the Bible version you use, 1 Thessalonians 5:22 refers to the “appearance of evil” (KJV), “every kind of evil” (NIV and NLT), or “every form of evil” (NRSV, NKJV, and ESV). Each is a good translation. The Greek word translated “appearance,” “form,” or “kind” can mean any of these things. The same word is used in 2 Corinthians 5:7 translated as “sight.”

Obviously, the difference in translations can lead to a difference in application. Is it the appearance of evil we should be concerned with, or is it staying away from all forms of evil?

One problem with emphasizing the appearance of evil is that it can make us slaves to the perceptions of others. There will always be someone who thinks that something you are doing is wrong, or that it looks wrong to him. So, rather than spending our time getting to know God and serving Him, we worry about the possibility that someone, somewhere, might misconstrue our actions. In the same letter that he wrote about avoiding evil, Paul wrote, “Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts”

 1 Thessalonians 2:4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.

 Our goal is to live righteously before God, not to comply with others’ arbitrary standards of conduct.

At the same time, we are instructed not to allow our Christian freedom to become a stumbling block to others 

1 Corinthians 8:9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours becomes a stumbling block to them that are weak.

We are also instructed to be salt and light in the world (Mathews 5:13-16). Christians have been set apart 

2 Corinthians 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. 

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