Over in 1 Thessalonians 5 we read the following:
12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle,[c] encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. 23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
I have believed (I think falsely) that as Christians, we are to keep our lives from any appearance of evil. And by that I mean we can't do things that would allow others to make false assumptions about us at a face value assessment of any circumstance. The above passage comes from the English Standard Version (ESV), but take a look, especially at verses 22 and 23, in the King James Version (KJV):
12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. 14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. 15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. 16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. 23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.
See the difference? Abstain from every form of evil becomes abstain from all appearance of evil. Now, this is essentially the same thing, but taken out of context in a certain version, you can teach that we are to avoid every circumstance that may cause others to make assumptions about what we are doing if they don't know all the details. Especially if you take verse 23 in the KJV along side of it; it's easy to incorrectly tie our blameless condition with the appearance of evil. But being blameless is not the same as appearing blameless. God doesn't instruct us to be sure that we appear blameless, yet in essence, I have believed some version of this for much of my life. I don't believe this is a correct attitude, nor do I think it falls in line with how we as Christians should live. This leads to an attitude of weighing what we do against how people will interpret what we do. I admit, I have lived like this for years; it is incredibly difficult to live with this attitude. No matter what you are doing, no matter what your intentions, there will be people who will misinterpret your actions. Boy, I need to print this out and hang it on my wall! I have been absolutely devastated by people who came to me or to another party involved and gently pointed out why we/I shouldn't be involved in something because of how it appears. And when you highly esteem another's opinion, or that person in particular, you can begin to question your own motives and whether what you are doing is right. Consequently, I believe I have wasted a myriad of opportunities based upon the logic that I can't do such and such because if every person who knows me (or doesn't know me) didn't know all the details then someone might make the wrong conclusions and it might look bad.
So, I'm sure for some of you this seems like a "duh" moment. But for me, this is a paradigm shift. Other people's opinion of me makes up the very essence of my character; I often believe more about myself based upon another's opinion of me than what I know of myself. I try so hard to be sure I don't do anything that might look bad that I
Now let me take a minute right here and ask that you not dismiss all this with the "raising your children is your service and work right now" bit. I know it is. And I agree with you. That is one piece of my work and service. But I do not buy for one second that the Lord expects me to put everything on hold in my life while I raise my children. That work should absolutely be my priority. When all the balls I'm juggling fall out of the air, that had better be the one I keep from dropping. However, I believe it is absolutely expected that I find opportunities to serve others while raising and teaching and training my kids. If I raise them in a bubble of Scripture, how will they ever see love and service in action? I don't believe it should wait until they are teenagers. Do I think the opportunities are different when raising young kids? Absolutely. It isn't likely practical that I take kids who are 4, 3 and 1 to go help a family move when my husband is working. In fact, I fear it would be dangerous as they are toddling around and could get hurt or in the way of someone and trip them up. And I'm sure the family appreciates me not allowing them to run around "helping" by breaking lamps and other items. But there are other things I can and should do. It is discouraging to me that I have to look so hard. It is not always easy to identify opportunities where I can take along four young children. And sometimes there are opportunities that I want to help with and cannot and that feels frustrating. But this is a season of accepting what I can do and humbling myself to do the things maybe I don't want to do because that is where opportunity lies. And that is not easy.
So, what does the difficulty in serving have to do with appearances of evil? Well, when you live by the belief you can never do anything if someone could assume something inappropriate and you already have limited ability to help others, you start to question why it is so difficult to serve God. And you start to realize there have been all kinds of struggles to serve and even opportunities you've missed over the years because you are limited to serving God only in ways that look good. And you start to reflect and contemplate and try to look to God's word and figure out how to make it all jive. Then you start to look at Christ's life. Did Christ live so carefully? I don't believe He did. Then, I came across something on my news feed. It was a quote by Francis Chan. He had this to say, "When we become overly concerned about our appearance, our spiritual reputation, our coolness, and our acceptance, we are living as citizens of this world rather than as ambassadors." Wow. That resonated with me. I live concerned about my spiritual reputation - as if others' perception of my Christian walk is what will judge me. But God is the one who will judge me. In fact, as I was considering all this, I realized something that was refreshing and brought freedom back into my Christianity.
From Matthew 1 (MSG):
18-19 The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.
20-23 While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:
Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).
24-25 Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.
When God decided upon a way to bring Jesus, His SPECIAL son, into the world, He chose Mary, a virgin, as the vessel. He didn't pick a married couple that wouldn't raise any questions. I don't know why, but I do know God doesn't make mistakes. This miracle would have raised all kinds of questions and appeared as wrong as could be. Can you imagine what Mary and Joseph lived through? We know the truth now, but how many people do you think believed their story? I doubt there were many, if any, who believed Mary. Yet her response when God called her to this task was not "Lord, I can't do that, people will assume I had Jesus out of wedlock." Nor did she say "But Lord, that would dim my light to do that." No, her response was "Let it be with me just as you say" (Luke 1:38 MSG). Wow. Now this was a young lady who didn't stop to decide whether to serve based upon what others might think. This was a young lady ready to serve in whatever way she was called to serve, when the opportunity presented itself.
Now let me pause a moment and say that I am not suggesting we use our liberty to do things that are questionable. I'm not a proponent of doing things that are wrong to win souls. But I am saying we can't serve God if we are worried about what man will think about us. We should be careful to not get caught up in sin and it is a very fine line at times. And there will be things that perhaps you can't do because of your past that would put you in a position to lead you into sin. If you are an alcoholic who has put that behind you, I'm not sure studying the Bible in a bar every Tuesday night is wise. If you are easily tempted by improper relationships, then allowing a young person of the opposite gender to live in your home may not be wise. But because something may look bad or even be unwise for one, doesn't mean it is wrong for everyone else. In fact, perhaps deciding against taking an opportunity to shine our lights or to serve because people may whisper or assume the wrong things is just as sinful. I am not trying to draw lines for anyone with this post. I'm just a wife, mother and daughter of the Creator who is struggling to make the most of every opportunity, to be ready when called and to live in a way that truly emphasizes what God values and thinks of me above what man thinks of me.
The post that really got me thinking, from https://www.facebook.com/crazylovebook?fref=photo.