Appearance of Evil

“Abstain from all appearance of evil” --1 Thessalonians 5:22 (KJ)

Recently I was told a very funny “joke” of something that happened in church. It struck me so funny I laughed and laughed. Later, when I was alone I went over it several times to be sure I would get it right when I retold it. It was one of those that you just had to tell someone else, a close friend. But it was somewhat “shady.” It wasn't really a “dirty” joke. But it was not one you would want to tell from the pulpit. The pastor and I were very close and I was just itching to tell it to him.Realizing real Abrahamic Christians are supposed to use good godly Christian speech, I wondered how I might tell him this questionable joke. Should I tell him beforehand: “I want to tell you a funny joke, but after I tell it, please forget it?” That didn't sound like the right thing to do. Was there any Bible verse to guide me in this? As in every situation we face, yes, there was a verse to guide me to do the right thing. It was the above verse, 1 Thessalonians 5:22 “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” The verse just before, in the New American Standard version reads: “Examine everything carefully, hold fast to that which is good.” This supported what the other verse said, to abstain from any un-Christian talk. After considering this advice to my dilemma, I finally concluded I should not tell my pastor this funny, a little “off color” joke. That was a disappointment, for it was funny and “not too bad.” But if I was to go by the Bible advice, I would have to forget the joke and the retelling of it. So that was my final decision.

Did this ever happen to you? At work, at the office, or just in conversation with someone, that such a “joke,” or funny thing passed between you two that really was a “little off color?” If you are in a group of workers, should you laugh or simply turn your head away as though you didn't hear it? We know the Bible is full of advice as to how we should talk. Colosians 4:6, for example: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.” When people become Christians they forsake the old “world” and take on an entirely new way of living—the godly way. It is the righteous way God tells us how to live, which He had His writers put into our Bible. Almighty God is a righteous God. He never uses bad language. Neither should we. You can usually tell if another person is a real Christian by the way he talks. Likewise, other people can tell if we are trying to follow our Lord Jesus by the way we talk. We are to be examples of GOD'S people. “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” Our “holy” lives are to inspire others, encourage others, to live the Christian life. We can't do that if our speech is full of worldliness. We simply can't talk like people of this world do. It is wrong.

We have to make decisions about retelling funny “off color” stories we hear. Christians have to turn from the mortal sinful way of life to following the Spirit-filled life, a life lived by the direction of God's Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit-filled life are given in Galatians 5:22-23. They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Paul gives a lot of attention to the Spirit-filled life in Romans 8, contrasting it to the fleshly life we begin with. “Those in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” How we talk has a lot to do with our salvation. Let's be very careful of what we say. It can save us or destroy us. Avoid every appearance of evil.

Jim Mattison