Abstain from all appearance of evil.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:22 KJV
Some months ago, I heard from a young teen who asked for prayer, because she was having a hard time finding a job. She described herself as looking like a "punk druggie," but assured me that she was "straight-edge" and a "strong Christian." She was frustrated because everyone, including potential employers, seemed focused on her appearance, whereas she desperately wanted them to focus on her "personality" and "maturity." What she didn't understand was the fact that, in many cases, all she had to do was to LOOK like a rebellious, drug-using teen, to be mistaken for one.
The Bible says, "Abstain from all appearance of evil." (1 Thessalonians 5:22 KJV) No matter how good this teen's intentions might be, and no matter how much she might love the Lord, He IS concerned about her appearance, and about the kind of impression she makes on those she comes in contact with. Scripture says that God is the only one who can see into people's hearts (1 Kings 8:39), and because of that, the believer's outward appearance, actions, and words must be consistently Christlike, if we're to make a real difference for Him in this world. The Amplified Version of this verse reads: "Abstain from evil [shrink from it and keep aloof from it] in whatever form or whatever kind it may be." If we are to please and glorify God, we must keep a healthy distance from "every kind of evil." (NIV)
Avoiding even the "appearance" of evil or wrongdoing can apply to our relationships, too. A Christian wife or husband should think twice before they spend time alone with someone of the opposite sex. They may be tempted to think, "But I'm not doing anything wrong, and God knows that." Even if this is true, and our intentions are good, it's our duty as servants of Christ to consider how our conduct might appear to those around us. The Bible says: "Take thought for what is honest and proper and noble [aiming to be above reproach] in the sight of everyone." (Romans 12:17 AMP) If our actions could be construed by others as being improper or less than noble, then chances are that we are not being Spirit-led, and we are catering to our own emotions and desires. Instead, God wants us to, "Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody." (Romans 12:17 NIV)
This teen who wrote me desperately wanted to be seen as a mature individual. But the Bible indicates that there's a price that needs to be paid for this kind of privilege. First Timothy 4:12 (NIV) says: "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." Because this girl was not setting a Christlike example to others, she was allowing others to look down on her, and to see her in a less-than-positive light.
Christians can't afford to have an attitude that says--"I don't care what anyone thinks. I'm going to do what I want, and look the way I want!" We are not just responsible to ourselves, but we are first and foremost responsible to our God. And if we will make it our goal to honor Him with every aspect of our lives, He will bless us, promote us, and use us to make an eternal difference in this world!
Prayer: Lord, teach me how to avoid even the appearance of evil in every area of my life. Guard me from having a too carefree or careless attitude about my appearance, my relationships, or my conduct. Thank You that as I strive to set a Christlike example in everything, You will use me to change the world around me!
- J. M. Farro