What is avoiding the appearance of evil (a Biblical phrase) and what is it not?
Those of us who have heard this phrase and have used it to calibrate our lives might be surprised to find that it does *not mean avoiding that which *appears to be evil (because whose judgment do we use for that?) but rather it means to avoid every place where evil *appears.
If we are in a place where an orgy is breaking out, we need to get out of there.
If we are in a place where a pornographic movie is being shown, we need to leave.
If we are in a room thick with marijuana smoke, we should make a quick exit.
If we don’t use the correct definition of “appearance of evil” we can end up calibrating our entire lives by the perceptions of the person in the room who has the dirtiest mind.
Think about it. Just say you are walking into church one morning and there is a troubled but vocal person there.
What might she see as you cross the room? Whom did you not greet? Could she portray that as you ignoring those people?
Whom did you greet? If any of those people were men who are not your husband, what might this observer see? Did your eyes seem to linger a bit too long on one of them as you exchanged a joke? Did your eyes brighten a lot as you shared with one of them about the Lord’s goodness? From across the room, could this person have seen the possibility of an illicit romance?
See where I am going with this? There will *always be at least one person everywhere we go who is famous for “reading into” the actions (or omissions) of others. If we let this person’s mind determine for us what evil is and is not, we will spend our lives in fear of being falsely accused, doing nothing most days in order to avoid the possibility of something we do being wrongly construed.
And, in the end, our avoidance is futile anyway, because a person determined to find fault in us and to start rumors about us will *always meet her goal, even if she has to makes something up out of whole cloth.
We need to avoid actual sins and places where a whole lot of sinning is occurring.
Avoiding the accusations of a rumormonger is probably impossible. Don’t spend too much of your life and effort worrying about it.