In his first letter to the faithful in Thessalonica (chapter 5), the Apostle Paul’s words reflect an urgent concern that they be spiritually awake. He reminded them that the Day of the Lord would come as a thief in the night and he didn’t want them to be caught unprepared. Among the various related exhortations, he wrote, “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22, KJV). There are at least two things that the apostle is referring to here: any obvious form of evil itself and anything that might be perceived by others to be evil. The implication is that it is impossible to be spiritually awake if we are not abstaining from evil in either form.
To abstain from obvious evil is a good thing. It provides the obedient with many blessings from God: happiness, peace of mind, pleasure — and it ensures the development of incorruptible character over time. Beyond that, it serves as a light or example to others of the blessings associated with life as God intends it for all who will accept it — so that, on a personal level, the gospel is being preached.
The person who abstains from even the appearance of evil, would also be said to be above reproach. The Apostle Paul spoke of such: “if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination” (Titus 1:6, ESV). The words “above reproach” are translated from the Greek word anegkletos and mean that there is not even an appearance of evil visible in that person’s life. In this scripture, it is a qualification of an elder and in the previous one, it is instruction to each of us – so it goes across the board.
Living one’s life above reproach, or apart from any appearance of evil, constitutes the same example and a form of indirect exposure to God’s way of life for all others. However, it serves an equally profound role in the life of that person who is striving to live in such a manner. Of necessity, living above reproach puts a believer in a heightened sense of spiritual alertness. For example, if we are to be seen by others as examples of God’s way of life, we have to be extremely aware of all the things that lead to obvious evil. “Does this conversation I’m involved in offer any subtle suggestions of lowered expectations?” “Could the way I am dressed be seen as provocative?” “What are my intentions in this business deal — fair or selfish?”
Avoiding the appearance of evil is a powerful tool in staying awake spiritually!