At the end of 1 Thessalonians, Paul encourages them to "abstain from all appearance of evil (5:22, KJV)." The reason that I find this verse so fascinating is because I think it can teach us a lot about how we should live our lives today.
Perhaps you are a person who has been a Christian for a while, and maybe you don't struggle with doing evil things. You probably aren't tempted to murder, to steal, to commit adultery. You may not have a problem with drunkenness or homosexuality or sorcery. I feel like those who were living in Thessalonica didn't have a huge problem with these things either. They were desperately trying to please their God, much like we are today. And it is to those faithful brethren that Paul wrote those words:
"Abstain from all appearance of evil."Paul is all about pushing people to the next level, much like our Lord and Savior was (see Mt 5:21-48). These people in Thessalonica were already doing their best not to do evil things...to stay away from the things mentioned in passages like Galatians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. And for that reason, Paul urges them to go a step further. As a Christian, it is not enough to simply not participate in evil things. Instead, as holy and sanctified people of God (1 Pet. 2:9), we are to stay away from things that even have the appearance of evil.
God's chosen people must remember that they are to be different. As members of our Lord's body, we are a called out people. If we look like and act like the rest of the world, how called out are we? If we promote activities and movies and television shows and songs and artists that are unholy and immoral, how are we abstaining from the appearance of evil? When we attend concerts where illicit drugs and drunkenness prevail, dances where immodesty and lewdness abound, and movies with foul language and nudity, how are we abstaining from the appearance of evil?
Even if we are not practicing such behaviors, promoting them seems to be just as bad. As holy people of God, we must be different. We must only think on things that are pure, lovely, and of good report (Phil. 4:8). We must set our minds on things above, not dwell on things that are carnal and earthly (Col. 3:2). We must strive to be holy in all of our conduct (1 Pet. 1:15), and that leaves no room for getting caught up in things that have the appearance of evil.
It won't be easy. Choosing not to shop at certain stores, go to certain events, or listen/watch certain things may even bring us ridicule and persecution. But all of that will be temporary, and our faithfulness to God will be rewarded.
Please don't think that this post means I am calling out anyone but myself. I know myself pretty well, and with confidence I can tell you that some of the temptations that are listed in the Bible aren't things that tempt me. However, not letting myself get involved with things that have the appearance of evil--that's something that I struggle with constantly. It is my prayer that I can put this verse in the forefront of my mind, and that you can do the same, and that together, we can encourage one another to a holier lifestyle.
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written 'Be holy, for I am holy.' - 1 Peter 1:13-16