What Does It Mean To “Abstain From The Appearance Of Evil?”

Christians are to avoid evil, but what about even the appearance of evil? What does this mean?

Resisting Evil

Who among us who believe in Christ have not been tempted? Even Jesus Christ was tempted in the wilderness, and so we are no exception to the fact that we are going to be tempted, however, we can’t blame the devil or demons because we are all responsible for our own actions and the consequences of those actions. So how does temptation lead us into sin? James writes, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:13-15). The point is if we allow the temptation to linger and don’t resist it, then we might embrace it and fall into sin as we’re lead away by our own lusts, meaning there is human responsibility for sin and we can’t point fingers at God or the Devil or his demons when we sin. James gives us the “How to” in resisting the Devil by writing, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). First of all, if we submit to God, we are being submissive to God or obeying the commands He has given us. If we do that, and then resist the Devil, he must “flee from you” because Satan can’t tempt a Christian as easily who is living in obedience.


Christian Conduct

When the Apostle Paul was giving a description of what the Christian should be living like, he included the command to “admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1st Thess 5:14-21). The is almost like a job description for an employee, but in this case, we’re in the family of God and we’re told to not repay evil for evil; to seek the good of one another, to constantly rejoice, pray without ceasing, and be thankful for everything. This is why Paul says “this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.” We don’t have to guess about God’s will as it’s clearly revealed in Scripture, but more so, we are to “examine everything carefully” and then “hold fast to that which is good.” If we do these things, we are in the will of God and we’ll not even be giving the appearance of evil.

The Appearance of Evil

We had a couple who claimed to be Christian who lived a couple of houses down from us and they were both unmarried but living together. This is next to nothing in the world’s eyes, but when someone claims to know Christ but doesn’t obey Christ, their witness for Christ is tarnished and their witness is of no effect. Even more, it does more harm than good to claim to be a believer when the world around them sees that they are living no differently than they do. The couple once asked me, “Do you think it is sin to live together without being married?” I told them that my own opinion isn’t important. It’s what the Bible says that’s important and the Bible says we are to “Abstain from every form of evil” (1st Thess 5:22). What Paul is saying is if it even looks like sin to the world, don’t do it. We must abstain from evil, but we must also abstain from giving the appearance of evil because that destroys our testimony of Christ. It shows that since Christians can compromise with sin, it must not be that serious. They may not say that with words, but their actions show that. Why should we be a stumbling block for non-believers when we can be salt and light? Even though the couple told me they never had sex, how convincing are their lives to the neighbors and those who know them? Not very, I would argue. It isn’t just pastors who are to live above reproach (1st Tim 3:2). There isn’t a set of rules for pastors and then another set for lay-members to live by. If we give the appearance of evil, we tell the world that it’s okay to sin. Even if there is no sin, the appearance of doing evil is just as bad because the human imagination tends to fill in the blanks and makes assumptions. Yes, it’s wrong to judge by sight, but if we cause our brother or sister to stumble even by giving the appearance of what we’re doing is sinful, we are sinning. The world is watching…and we might be the only Bible they will ever read…and if we ruin our witness for Christ, then they might think (incorrectly) that all Christians are like that…just a bunch of hypocrites. Yes, we are in some ways, but I would say, so is everyone else. The difference is, we admit it and know we’re not perfect…we’re infused with the righteousness of Christ (2nd Cor 5:21).


I think the couple knew something was wrong, otherwise, why would they even care what someone thought about their living together? If they had no problem with it, they would have never even brought it up, so the fact that they asked about this shows me that they know something might be wrong with what they’re doing. They told me they don’t have sex but how can the neighbors know that? What does this say to the world? How can Christians live like the world and still claim to be Christ’s? The Apostle John warns, “it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1st John 3:10), because “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us” (1st John 3:24), and the truth is, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him” (1st John 3:6), no matter how they justify themselves. Cleary, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God” (1st John 3:9), and that means they won’t want to even give the appearance of doing evil, but instead, will do everything they can to live a holy life that is pleasing to God…and not a life that focuses on pleasing themselves.

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

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  • pud

    “so the fact that they asked about this shows me that they know something might be wrong with what they’re doing. They told me they don’t have sex but how can the neighbors know that?”

    Do the neighbors need to know this jack? Maybe you could hide in the bushes and peep in their windows? Maybe a good neighborhood stoning followed by a fine christian BBQ?

    ” I told them that my own opinion isn’t important. It’s what the Bible says that’s important ”

    Except for the parts you don’t care about right? Do you eat shellfish? Pork? Wear clothing made of mixed fabric? Do you honor the 600+ laws your “god” orders you to?

    Omnipotent, all powerful, eternal, all knowing “gods” do not NEED to be pleased you simple minded fool. Nor are they concerned with what your neighbors do while naked.

    GROW UP!! This isn’t the Bronze Age jack!

    • King Aries

      Additionally, Christians are not under the law. You’re attempting to criticize something that you do not even understand. You should educate yourself on a subject before speaking on it; It makes you look ignorant and foolish. Simple Minded? Coming from the same guy who is on here attacking someone without cause and insulting them for no reason. You GROW UP JACK!!!!!!

      • pud

        Under what “law”? I understand you and your cult far better than you do. I am not an indoctrinated cult member…I live outside your circle of blood sacrifice worship and can see you clearly where you have blinders on under fear of eternal damnation. You are the sucker not I.

        • King Aries

          Dude you’re a jackass and I feel sorry for the people who have to deal with you in real life. I hope that you’re only acting this way because platforms such as Disqus provides a measure of anonymity. I truly hope this is not who you truly are because if you are, people hate you; Including your family and co-workers.

          • pud

            Great argument! Clearly you know me better than I know myself! In my circle I am only respected. Now go pray…but not for your “god” to heal an amputee…he hates amputees

          • King Aries

            In your face they respect you, behind your back they hate you. If you behave this way offline, your friendships are hollow. You’re clearly miserable which is why you get online and take it out on others. I know agnostics and atheists who vastly more intelligent than you, but their not jackasses or rude.

            All you are is a miserable human being hiding behind an online pseudonym and I feel sorry for you.

          • Jack Wellman

            You are so right my friend. We can disagree but not be belligerent.

          • pud

            You wouldn’t know “right” or “true” if it bit you on your butt. You are buried under your ridiculous absurd “beliefs” and you’ll probably never see the light of reason in your life

          • King Aries

            Jack Wellman, that is the point I’m making. Even if someone was mistaken in their belief, it doesn’t take epistemology, exegesis, a high IQ to be kind to someone. Say for instance, of Pud was right, no one would listen with such a heavy handed delivery; Case in point.

          • pud

            That’s because you don’t care about what is true only about what “feels” good. That’s the fundamental core of your cult and all similar cults. Feel good. Pretend. Make up. Lie. Delude (both self and others) so long as it gives comfort and answers regardless of their legitimacy or truth.

          • pud

            You KNOW this how? You don’t but that’s not surprising since your entire epistemology is based on nothing but absurd “belief”

  • pud

    “even jesus christ was tempted in the wilderness”…Tell us simple jack..how do you know this? How do you actually know that this really happened as the story book says? Who wrote it down? Who was witness to it? Why would you accept as absolute fact something for which there is absolutely NO evidence for?

    ” because Satan can’t tempt a Christian as easily who is living in obedience.”

    Again simple jack….How do you KNOW this rather than simply BELIEVE this? Demonstrate the existence of this invisible foe of yours. You can’t because IT ISN’T REAL jack…it’s made up! A primitive story jack…a STORY developed over hundreds of years by superstitious barbarians who KNEW NOTHING of the real world, the universe or reality. Your “Satan” is a MAN MADE fantasy character jack just like Santa Claus!

    It’s all made up!! Wake up hayseed!


    • King Aries

      Pud, if none of this is real, why did you take the time out to type a multi-paragraph response in such an aggressive manner? I am friends with atheists, Muslims, etc, and we’re able to co-exist with out attacking each other’s beliefs.

      Your responses are pseudo intelligence at best without any real substance to add to the conversation. Why are you here?

      • pud

        Well you are not very discerning then are you? Why don’t you go to an Islamic country and tell them how open minded you are?

        I am here because I seek to eradicate religion. You don’t fight alcohol addiction in the churches you go to the pubs…get it?

        “Beliefs” are contrary to knowing. “Beliefs” are anti progress, anti human, anti science, anti learning and are inherently racist and bigoted. “Belief” is the most dishonest position a person can take. Fools “believe” Children “believe” and your cult makes its living off of children and fools. You retard everything that is noble and good about humanity. You and “beliefs” are responsible for every act of human carnage ever engaged it. “Belief” is evil, stupid and wicked.

        I make rational arguments and point out CLEARLY the contradiction, ignorance, stupidity and absurdity of all “beliefs”

        If you would like to challenge me in a battle of intellect go for it. I’ll chew you up and spit you out


        • King Aries

          Pud, it is not a matter of intellect. I am a network engineer and I study biblical text in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. You’re attempting to attack and insult the person who wrote this article, but do you even understand proper biblical exegesis? Point being, you could have all of the intelligence in the world, but you lack tact. It takes very little intelligence to be a decent human being to someone.

          You seem like a smart guy, and you could probably make for some very engaging conversations, but you won’t challenge or change anyone by being rude or condescending to them.

          • pud

            I rest my case! You are fully infected with cognitive dissonance…a brain scrambled between reality and mythology.

            I don’t care about being nice. Get over it. I care about the TRUTH not your or anyone else’s tender sensibilities

      • pud

        PS…I’ll point out the obvious to you because you clearly are too dimwitted to see the facts for yourself…..”YOU” may be tolerant of other stupid “beliefs” but that is NOT the case for many other “beliefs” is it? Sweden is now the rape capital of Europe due to the muslim horde that invaded that once beautiful culture…to cite just one of hundreds of examples. Endorsing ignorant barbaric Bronze Age “beliefs” is an endorsement for stupidity, savagery, barbarism, war, conflict, hatred, violence and retardation of humanity

        • King Aries

          Nothing to see here. I tried to reason with you and have a decent conversation, but you’re dead set on being insulting. You do not even understand the book or belief system you’re attacking. Have a great day 🙂

          • pud

            I fully understand all the “belief” systems of the religions of Abraham. They are all nonsense, absurd, false, delusional and ridiculous backed up by nothing. Try programming your computer using “belief” systems and get back to me