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The Appearance of Evil

1 Thessalonians 5:22 tells us as Christians to abstain from even the appearance of evil. That is good advice for several reasons. The first is that it keeps us out of trouble. I heard an account back in the late 1960s of a pastor who went into an adult club to retrieve a member of his congregation. The man had backslid and was frequenting such clubs. As luck would have it, when the two men exited the club another member of the congregation was driving by and spotted them. The word quickly spread through the church members, and it wasn’t long before the pastor’s wife heard the story. She was embarrassed and extremely angry with her husband. Fortunately, the other man confessed to his misdeeds in church the nest Sunday, and exonerated the pastor of any wrong doing. So, no harm to the pastor resulted.

The pastor made a mistake. He failed to inform his wife of where he was going and why, and ask her to accompany him, or to find another church member to go with him to the club. Going by himself without notifying anyone gave the appearance of evil to his actions, even though his intent was blameless. Being aboveboard in his actions would have prevented the misinformation from spreading through the congregation. Billy Graham was often picked up at airports by a member of a local church when he went on tours. He refused to have a single woman pick him up, and would not ride with just another woman other than his wife, nor be alone in his office or elsewhere with just a woman, to prevent any misunderstandings.

Today allegations of sexual misconduct by public figures abound. I’m sure that most of them are legitimate, but I have a serious doubt as to whether all of them are true. Many claims may be false, claimants jumping onto the band wagon for monetary gain or for the temporary fame they enjoy in the press, or both. In legal terms, a negative can’t be proven. And, the claims cannot be verified after years have gone by when there is no proof of the claimed misconduct. The problem arises in these cases because the person who allegedly committed the wrongful acts allowed him or herself to be placed in a situation where the misconduct could likely occur. To my knowledge, Billy Graham was never successfully accused of any misconduct, although there were several attempts to set him up in compromising situations. The attempted setups failed because of his careful actions.

I have read the trial transcripts and seen other documents of a person who spent 15 years in prison because the prosecutor told the jury that although the man’s defense was valid and he did not violate the law, there was some innuendo he could make that the man could have committed a crime, therefore he was being prosecuted as if he had committed the offense. This was a complicated case in a state that has no regard for the US Constitution, federal regulations or common law. I wouldn’t have believed the man’s claims if he had not allowed me to read all his paperwork. But that’s another story. Suffice it to say that the man could have avoided his tribulations by taking certain measures he failed to take.

Christians have an obligation to God to abstain from all appearance of evil. We are ambassadors for Christ (1 Corinthians 5:20). The only way the lost can see Christ today is through us. That means all of our actions and words must be above reproach at all times, a tall order indeed! We are not perfect. Most certainly I am not perfect. We all misspeak at times. Open mouth, insert foot! These indiscretions need to be corrected and apologies made if needed. Paul wrote to us as Christians, “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. More over it is required in stewards that one be bound faithful” ( 1 Corinthians 4:1,2). Jesus, who was perfect, was able to show the fallacies in his accusers claims. God allowed Him to be convicted and executed on a false charge- at the appointed time-because it had to be that way in order for Him to take on all of our sins on the cross. Jesus’ accusers could never successfully make a false claim against Him before that time.

I have a very good friend who is a great grandmother with an army of grandchildren and great grandchildren. I visit her often, but I never interact with any of the other women (I am seriously out numbered) or children without my friend present. This avoids any possibility of doubts as to my intentions by family members, and it prevents any false charges by anyone else.

Not being faithful stewards of the word keeps people from coming to Christ. A restaurant waitress told a well-known evangelist and Christian writer, ” If more Christians were like you, I’d become a Christian”. That could have just been a cop out, an excuse. But it raises a serious point. Many Christians do not act like they’re saved. They are poor ambassadors for Christ. Non-Christians see their actions and hear their words and decide that Christianity isn’t for them. We need to live so that as one woman told Corrie Ten Boom in a German concentration camp, “I want what you have”. That’s hard to do, but it’s possible.

What kind of ambassador are you? Do you need serious improvement? What kind of view of Jesus and Christianity are you showing other people? Your ambassadorship is the most effective evangelism tool you have. It’s a sacred office. Be sure you administer your responsibilities to Christ effectively.

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