This post is from Chrissy Wright, and I think she offers a serious counter to how one NT text is frequently used. (Next week from Matt Edwards.) How do you think this verse about avoiding the appearance of evil should be lived out today?
One of the most frequently quoted verses in the Bible, from my
experience, is 1 Thessalonians 5:22. You know, the one that goes “avoid
the appearance of evil.” Now, I think this is a great verse and a very
wise proverb, obviously, but I have been puzzled by how much it’s being used and how it’s been put to use as of late. What I think is really interesting and irritating about this subject,
is how it is used for very few things. Truly, the “real issues” that
some Evangelicals lift up as the absolute imperative sins are, to me,
so sad. Now, I’m not saying that these people are ridiculous, but I believe
their focuses are misguided, and this scripture about the
appearances of evil brings out this skewed perspective in a very
tangible way. The verse really seems to mean that we should avoid sin so completely
that we avoid the very appearance of it. Simple enough. But what it’s
come to mean, almost exactly is this:
Don’t hang out too close to your girlfriend/boyfriend!
Don’t go to places where people do these things! And don’t hang out with people who do these things! (do not drive by the strip club)
Are these really our only major issues?
But my goal isn’t to shrink the list of “appearances.” I want to add to it.
When was the last time an American evangelical Christian chose not to buy an item made in China because they wanted to “Avoid the Appearance” of exploiting a vulnerable child?
When was the last time an American evangelical declined a day of shopping because they wanted to “Avoid the Appearance” of mindless consumption?
When was the last time an American evangelical declined a second portion of a rather delectable treat, not to avoid getting fat, but to “Avoid the Appearance” of gluttony?
We have tricked ourselves into thinking that if we fit into a rather comfortable little understanding of “normal” Christian practices then we are good to go. Someone came up with this list, I’m guessing some time in the 20th century. Don’t drink, don’t chew, don’t go with girls that do. And it stuck. Why?
Because it is incredibly easy. For most, anyway. For those who struggle with the particular sins we have decided are paramount (even if they are really good at avoiding the other sins like greed, jealousy, gluttony, wrath, etc.), we simply exclude them from our practices and deny even the sincerity of their faith
Meanwhile, we only talk about the previously established sins and feel pretty good about ourselves. Because, if we abstain completely from a few things (rather than learning moderation), we can completely give ourselves over to a few other things (rather than learning moderation) and we’re good to go! Now, I know I am not the first person to point this out. Heck, this isn’t even the first time I’ve pointed it out. But it bears repeating and repeating and repeating until we Christians come to terms with what we’ve really signed up for here.
It is not an easy path. It is not a selfish path. It is not a comfortable path. It is not an orderly, all laid out, avoid these five things, do these three things, neat path. It is a daily, creative, intentional adventure of learning how to love, learning how to sacrifice, and learning what it is to see His Kingdom come and His will be done.
Way cooler, way harder.