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Stay Away From Evil

LEARN FROM OTHERS

Over the last seventeen years, God has gifted me with the chance to serve and learn from many men of God who taught me several life and ministry concepts. One of the most critical concepts I was taught and one that I now expect of every person associated with our ministry — is the need of avoiding any appearances of evil.

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I felt the restrictions were a touch excessive when I first heard them. For example, one of the leaders I knew a few years ago fell into sexual sin because he was counselling a lady from another church. 

My advice to all pastors and leaders whether male or female is not to meet alone with members of the opposite sex, or to advise a woman/man alone behind closed doors, or travel alone in a vehicle with a woman/man who is not your wife or husband. 

I believed that these kinds of regulations make life very inconvenient for many. However, I was adamant about never giving the incorrect impression or opening the door to criticism or allegation.

POSSIBILITY OF ACCUSATIONS

I have worked in ministry for many years and have seen countless instances of pastors being accused of improper conduct. The conduct was sometimes genuine and also occasionally imagined, but the possibility for accusation nearly always resulted from a failure to maintain certain limits. 

Thus, I now totally concur with the idea of sticking to a few constraints such as those imposed by different men of God during my early years of ministry. 

By exercising caution, men and women of God may avoid insinuations and accusations. This, however, should apply not just to Gospel preachers, but to every Christian concerned with the integrity of his or her testimony.

FOUNDATION BY PAUL

I utilise First Thessalonians 5:22 as the foundation for my rules, and I use it in my own ministry to offer advice to any leader on similar matters. 

1 Thessalonians 5:22 -- Stay away from every form of evil.

"Stay away from every form of evil," the apostle Paul stated in this passage. Today, I want to take a closer look at this critical passage in the Bible to see what we may get from it.

"Stay away..." Paul started. "Stay away" or "Abstain" is derived from the Greek word "apecho." This term refers to the act of purposefully withdrawing from something; staying away from something; putting space between oneself and something else; or purposefully abstaining. 

BUFFER ZONE

"Apecho" is also used in First Peter 2:11, where Peter writes, 

1 Peter 2:11 -- Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul..."

In this instance, the term "abstain" — "apecho" — refers to an intentional abstention from something; so, it may be rendered as "...I implore you to abstain from fleshly lusts that wage war against the soul." The suggestion is that Christians should maintain a buffer zone between themselves and fleshly and carnal temptations.

DISTANCE BETWEEN THINGS

Another use of the term "apecho" in the New Testament illustrate how this word also refers to some kind of distance between things. For example:

In Luke 7:6, 

Luke 7:6 -- Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying to him, Lord, trouble not yourself: for I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof:

Here the term "apecho" refers to the physical distance between Jesus and the centurion's dwelling.

SEPARATED FROM GOD

In Matthew 15:8 and Mark 7:6, 

Matthew 15:8 -- This people draws near to me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

Mark 7:6 -- He answered and said to them, Well has Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

In these verses, "apecho" refers to human hearts that have become hardened, separating them from God.

DISENGAGE AND DISCONTINUE

In Acts 15:20, 

Acts 15:20 -- But that we write to them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.

In this verse, the term "apecho" is used when James, the Jerusalem church's leader, instructs the new Gentile believers to refrain from food presented to idols, sexual immorality, strangled animals' flesh, and raw blood intake. 

The word "apecho" is used so strongly in that phrase that it demands that new gentile Christians disengage from and permanently discontinue interaction with these things. It is essentially a mandate to abstain, cease, discontinue, and terminate any future contact with them, and it demands an end to the practice of permitting such contact permanently.

Keeping this in mind, we see that when Paul instructed us to "stay away/abstain/avoid every appearance of evil," and in doing so he was admonishing you and me to maintain a safe distance from any semblance of evil. 

"Apecho," the Greek term, requires us to prohibit even the tiniest indication of incorrect conduct or any act that may be construed as immoral or unethical. Without a doubt, implies utmost care and alertness.

SIGNIFICANT EMPHASIS

1 Thessalonians 5:22 -- Stay away from every form of evil.

The term "from" is derived from the Greek word apo, which translates as "away." However, since the term "apecho" had previously been used to denote the act of separating oneself from something else, the term "apo" was unnecessary — unless Paul wished to make a significant emphasis on this issue. 

By using the term "apo," it is made very apparent that Christians must not only maintain a healthy distance from what is manifestly wicked but also maintain a healthy distance from anything that meets this description, even in appearance.

REMOTE POSSIBILITIES

1 Thessalonians 5:22 -- Abstain from all appearance of evil.

The Greek term for "appearance" is "eidos," which appears just five times in the New Testament but refers to an external shape, apparent appearance, similarity, or resemblance to anything. 

Thus, Paul was saying to us that it is irrelevant what you believe or what you know to be true; what is relevant is what seems to be true in the eyes of others.

Even if there is a remote possibility that your activities may be misinterpreted as evil, or if what you do resembles anything bad or wrong, you must keep as far away from it as possible.

WITNESS AND REPUTATION

1 Thessalonians 5:22 -- Abstain from all appearance of evil.

This is made even more severe by the fact that the Greek term for "evil," "poneros," is often used in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament to refer to activities that eventually harm a person's witness and reputation. For example:

Deuteronomy 22:14 -- And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name on her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid..."

Without a doubt, Paul was reminding us that we must do everything possible to maintain a significant gap between ourselves from anything that may jeopardise or ruin our reputation or our godly testimony in front of others.

Consider this: How many individuals do you know who did something they "believed" was OKAY — but others observed their actions and misconstrued them, sullying their reputation? 

I am referring to instances in which pastors have been accused of immoral conduct due to close contact with a member of the opposing sex who was not their spouse. 

Perhaps nothing improper happened, but what the public saw looked something wrong, and the pastor was therefore unfairly implicated. This is why it is a good guideline to never advise an opposing sex member alone. 

By using common sense and avoiding situations where you may be blamed, you have established a buffer zone between yourself and prospective allegations.

MISUSING FINANCES

Have you ever heard a rumour about a preacher misusing funds allocated for the ministry's work? The minister may have done nothing unlawful with the finance, but since his actions created a false picture in the minds of those watching, what he did result in a tainted testimony. 

Preachers may prevent these sorts of charges by resolving never to handle ministry finances directly and by instituting an accountability-driven accounting system. 

By using common sense and abstaining from acts that may create an unfavourable image, persons in the ministry can create a significant gap between themselves and suspicious-looking circumstances. 

By doing so, they eliminate any possibility of being accused of misusing ministry finances or engaging in any dubious conduct or behaviour.

Keep an account of every penny that people give and how you use it so that no one can bring an accusation against you, and even if there is you can rely on your account keeping to prove your character.

TO ALL CHRISTIANS

As I already said, this idea of abstaining from all appearances of evil is not exclusive to pastors. It is applicable to any Christian who wishes to maintain a godly reputation. The reality is that if you value your testimony in the eyes of others, you must decide to withdraw from, abstain from, cease from, stop, and permanently end any conduct that seems to be bad. 

While this may need establishing new standards for your life, you will be taking critical efforts toward safeguarding your witness and godly character.

RISKING REPUTATION

How much are you willing to risk with your reputation — and the reputation of the Holy One you represent? 

To maintain a good reputation and testimony in the eyes of others, you must abstain from any action, language, or contact that appears to be evil. And this is not merely my recommendation; it is God's commandment through Paul the apostle.

You must cut ties with any location, action, language, or relationship that creates the impression that you are doing something wrong. It makes no difference what you believe is acceptable; what matters is how others perceive you. 

Therefore, maintain a great deal of distance between yourself and anything you do that might be misinterpreted and thus tarnish your reputation.

FORFEITING YOUR TESTIMONY

Numerous individuals have forfeited their testimony as a result of their failure to use their heads and consider how their actions might be perceived by others. Perception is frequently reality in the beholder's eye.

Even if you believe you are doing nothing wrong, the fact remains that people see your actions, not your heart. If they witness you engaging in an immoral or unethical act, you will almost certainly be judged on the basis of their perception.

GLORIFY CHRIST IN EVERYTHING

I am sure that your greatest desire—like mine—in this life is to glorify Jesus Christ in everything you say and do. That is why our hearts can concur with Paul's statement in this verse—that it is always best to "abstain and avoid all appearance of evil" as His representatives and ambassadors; His sons and daughters on this earth.

We must live our lives with common sense and a sense of holiness that comes from the Holy Spirit. We must be deliberate in our actions, be cognizant of the fact that others are watching, and be guided by the Holy Spirit in how we live our lives. 

We must do nothing that will cast a negative light on Jesus' name, our names, or our testimonies as a child of God. With God's assistance, we can live an accusation-free life.

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Let people be warned, encouraged and blessed.

Blessings,

Godwin.

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