Church

August 24 2011
137

“Avoid the appearance of evil.”

We’ve all heard it said before.

And while it comes from the Bible, I think we may have warped its original intended meaning. More often than not, I’ve seen it used as a weapon of divisiveness and judgment and condemnation.

I grew up in a Christian home. I went to a Christian school. We went to church religiously. And the message was drilled into me from an early age: Avoid the appearance of evil.

I was taught to avoid places, activities, and people that might raise eyebrows.

If my presence or involvement could be misconstrued, I shouldn’t be there. After all… what will people think? Or worse… what will people say?

It’s why we shouldn’t go to bars or clubs. It’s the reason we shouldn’t get tattoos. It’s why we shouldn’t hang out with the “rough crowd”. Because all of those things might give an appearance of evil.

Someone might see it or hear about it, and jump to the wrong conclusion.

Because clearly it isn’t very Christ-like to be caught in a potentially compromising situation. Right?

Oh.

Wait.

Jesus didn’t avoid the appearance of evil. He ran straight into it.

Party at the thieving tax collector’s house? He’s there.

Intimate conversations with prostitutes? One of His favorite pastimes.

Hanging out with the scum of society? Nowhere else He’d rather be.

Enjoying some wine with His friends? Of course.

No, Jesus didn’t avoid the appearance of evil. He sought it out. He pursued it. And as a result, He quite often appeared evil.

That’s why the religious leaders of the day hated Him so much. Everything He did seemed to fly in the face of their long list of do’s and don’ts.

They called Him a liar.

A drunk.

A glutton.

Blasphemous.

Demon-possessed.

They didn’t understand His approach to life and ministry, because it was the complete opposite of theirs. He embraced what they shunned.

The scandalousness of grace is that it runs toward evil, not away from it.

Being like Christ is not about what I avoid. It’s about what—and who—I embrace.

Because, after all, Christ embraced me.

And I am no different than the drunks, whores, adulterers, and all-around “rough crowd” I was taught to avoid. I am them. And they are me.

And Christ embraces us all.

Who am I to pick and choose?

137 comments

  1. SO TRUE. I also grew up in a Christian home and the same thing was drilled into me. The question is, if it didn’t mean what Christians have twisted it to mean, then what was really meant by this verse? Could it be that we’ve read it wrong? That maybe the word appearance “shows up” instead of “seems”? In that case it would mean to stay away from evil when it shows up in the world instead of staying away from it if it may seem like evil.

    Reply
    • i’ve asked a pastor friend of mine to come comment later to shed some light on the original meaning. i’m really looking forward to hearing his take on this…

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      • Thanks Alece!

        If you’ve spent any time at all with Paul’s writings to the churches, you quickly realize that he always writes with an agenda. He writes to confront issues or praise leaders and churches or both.
        Here in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, He is encouraging them to continue to grow in faithfulness to Christ. In chapter 5 specifically, Paul starts by encouraging them with the facts of the return of Christ. He asks them to be ready and to encourage each other on in faith. It’s after this that we get into the part of Paul’s letter that addresses this issue of “appearances of evil.”
        Paul begins talking about honoring leaders among the Thessalonian church. He then encourages them through a series of things, such as, warning lazy people, encouraging those who are timid, taking care of the weak and to be patient with everyone. He tells them to never repay evil with evil and to do good to everyone. He asks them to always be joyful. He gives them instructions to never stop praying and to be thankful in all circumstances.
        Then in the last four verses he says, “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, BUT test everything that is said. Hold to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.” (vs. 19-22)
        In the quick search I did on these last four verses, the experts seem to believe that these verses are lumped together and suggest that when dealing with the Holy Spirit in the midst of the Church Body we need to be testing those who teach and prophesy. When we do that we should “hold to what is good” and “stay away from every kind of evil.” The reference seems to be directed at this, not who we hang around with and where we find ourselves. As you can see more modern translations seem to back this up in the wording. I quoted the NLT here, but the NIV says, “Avoid every kind of evil.” Eugene Peterson’s The Message says, “Throw out everything tainted with evil.” In the context of what we’ve looked at in chapter 5 this seems to be a very accurate translation in terms of Paul’s concern for sound Biblical doctrine and teaching. Make sense?
        I would suggest that as has often happened throughout the history of the Church, “we’ve tweaked” a Biblical truth to suit our need to make sure everyone behaves as “we think they should” and not as following after Christ leads us to.

        Hope that helps!

        Reply
        • Liz S.

          Thank you so much for that. Truly! That’s good stuff. And yes, far too often it seems, we try to twist the words to make them fit ehat we think should be the ‘right’ answer. May we all do better. Thanks again, BOTH of you, for sharing your wisdom.

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        • this is SO good, jason. thank you!

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    • i hope jason’s reply was helpful, heather…

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      • Ellie

        Interesting that according to that definition it looks much more like we should be concerned about avoiding evil where it shows up INSIDE the church than staying away from thing and people outside the church that those inside the church would judge us for being with. Perhaps the worst kind of evil is that which pretends to be holy.

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        • “Perhaps the worst kind of evil is that which pretends to be holy.” YES.

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        • annie

          You NAILED it, Ellie!!!! Well … a good bit of it. :D Agreed!!

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  2. Love the way you turned the tables on this long held belief :) I think grace does run headlong into the muck and madness of our lives.

    Frightening that sometimes we value our own preconceived ideas about what is evil—alcohol, tattoos, secular music, whatever–over Christ’s life and example.

    Reply
    • secular music and any movie over PG were HUGE no-no’s for me. oi.

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      • for me, too, Alece, for me too!

        I am on a determined pathway out of legalism, but wanting to remain committed to God. It is just that now I have to ask who is God? Who does HE say He is? It’s been a journey, but a healing one.

        And… I learned to dance! Well, one dance so far. I will learn more. I’m learning freedom, freedom in grace. It is an adventure. :)

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  3. Bravo!!! Fantastic post!!!!!! Sharing this on my FB page.

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  4. Oh yes. You’ve nailed it, Alece.

    “He embraced what they shunned”

    …beautiful.

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    • and i so often display the complete opposite of Him…

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  5. So what is the original intended meaning of that scripture? I was taught as you were taught, and now I am unraveling all the gunk in my head to try to figure out what the Bible really means. So can you help me on this one?

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    • i’ve asked a pastor friend of mine to come share his thoughts on that later — because i honestly don’t know…

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      • I think maybe that passage can be understood better as shunning the evil within us(and the ‘appearance’ of that evil that sometimes leaks out of us sin-born creatures), learning instead to turn the gospel-blessed self toward all we meet, no matter where we find them. And maybe Jesus didn’t so much run toward evil as he ran toward people – all kinds of people in all kinds of places with all kinds of needs. He didn’t let the trappings in which they hid out deter him from seeking their healing and salvation. And we shouldn’t either. Thoughtful, helpful post, Alece. Thank you.

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        • Agnes

          ‘..maybe Jesus didn’t so much run toward evil as he ran toward people..’ Thank you, just what I was thinking, but you’ve said it so much more pithily than I would have :)

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        • YES! so good! the christianity i was raised in taught me to run AWAY from people — people who looked different, believed different, acted different — but Christ ran toward them. including me.

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    • I’m thinking about this too. It helps me to re-define/think through my definition of evil. For example, there’s a big difference between:

      “Avoid the appearance of selfishness, greed, hatred, malice, etc” and “Avoid the appearance of tattoos, smoking, low cut shirts, sluts, alcoholics, R rated movies, etc.”

      God’s definition of evil is different than the church’s definition of morality as a sole reaction to the culture.

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      • annie

        Yesyesyesyesyeseyesyesyes!!!

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    • wanted to make sure you saw jason’s reply up there — http://deeperstory.com/grace-runs/#comment-7514

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      • That did help me. Glad Jason came along to explicate that.

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  6. love it! and totally agree. my husband and i have experienced the negative side of this verse far too many times. he has tattoos. we have a different outlook on life and who we should embrace. in the last year or so i had a friend meet with me that previously had told me i was “a woman of god” that she respected– she met with me to tell me that because our belief systems did not align perfectly that she could no longer be friends with me. crushing. this mentality is wrong and hurtful. just as you pointed out jesus walk probably does not look like most of ours. he went places we don’t go. he hung out with people we won’t.
    it’s challenging.
    much to rethink
    much to embrace.

    thank you!

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    • Melissa, I am astounded as I read your words. Seriously, someone told you that because of your belief system she could not be friends with you? I’m so sorry that happened. The truth is it’s not you who has the issue there. Because if I am living Christ in me, I will never walk away from someone who believes differently. I will love them right where they are as they are. Maybe God was protecting you from a person who could not love you because of their own wrong belief system.

      I know this, Jesus would hang out with you every moment He could get. You are His great love…

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      • PS. I love tatooed people. I have two of them in my home!!

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      • Julie – I was kicked out of a worship band, removed from all other areas of ministry because I was meeting my non-CHristian friends where they felt most comfortable. It happened to be a local irish-style pub. My entire elders board quoted that “appearance of evil” verse at me and told me I wasn’t allowed to participate in ministry until I had stopped spending time with them there…that I should be inviting them to church instead. I didn’t stop…and I left that church. IT DOES HAPPEN. It’s sad and it’s so so wrong but that attitude does exist.

        Hopefully as more and more of us extend grace and forgiveness and love to others, it will catch on and these attitudes will be less and less prevalent.

        Oh…I may be wrong here but I have only ever truly experienced this type of attitude in smaller more conservative towns, not so much in the bigger centres. Is this just me or is this the case elsewhere?

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        • jomi,
          This story truly breaks my heart but does NOT surprise me. We claim all this stuff in the name of Christ and yet His heart would never, ever, ever live what is put before us. If it grieves my heart I can only imagine how it must grieve His.. People representing His heart in such a way that is so contrastingly different from His true, genuine, love heart…. I’m sorry you were treated that way. Jesus would never, ever have done that to you. It made His heart sad too.

          A little story for you… My 2nd born daughter and her husband just came back from a 6 months’ missions trip with Youth With A Mission . They had to raise almost $10,000 dollars to go. They contacted several churches in our area and asked if they could come and tell of their trip. No one opened a door for them. A small pub in town did. The owners were friends with my son-in-law’s parents. Yes, it is a typical pub, where lots of beer is dispensed…etc. They wanted to help send them overseas so they did a raffle ticket for $50 offering up their Florida condo to the raffle winner for a week’s vacation. This little pub raised $5,000 for my daughter and son-in-law. Where the “church” was unwilling to help send a young couple overseas…a beer selling pub took their place.

          Go figure…… You did the right thing leaving that church, in my opinion… truly the right thing!

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    • ohmyheart. i’m so sorry…

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  7. I think Plan B is working for you, Alece. I loved this! What a challenge to my heart…. I have been guilty of avoiding those who are exactly what I am, but Jesus didn’t. :)

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    • “but Jesus didn’t…” and there’s my challenge in everything.

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  8. Lyra

    This resonates so closely with me.A couple of years ago my husband and I followed God’s leading to walk straight into the evil surrounding a friend’s life, who was hooked on heroine. It’s the hardest thing we have ever done, but we have seen the Gospel completely transform this man’s life and he now has a life with his wife he never would have been able to imagine 2 years ago. This is all because Jesus met him through us, where He was and, for the first time, He was loved through it, rather than shunned.

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    • wow. that is so amazing and so beautiful! what a beautiful picture of the Gospel…

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  9. I grew up in that same environment. Interesting when I really look at what Jesus was doing and compare it to my life. It reminds me of the Easter homily in “Chocolat”: We must measure our goodness, not by what we don?t do, what we deny ourselves, what we resist, or who we exclude. Instead, we should measure ourselves by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.

    Thanks for the post!

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    • “by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include” — so good!

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  10. amen.
    that’s all i can say.

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  11. I almost stood up at my desk and started clapping!! Well said :)

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  12. The story of my walk with God the last couple of years. :) God moved us to a church that does that. Our church is filled with prostitutes, drug dealers, murderers, child molesters, rapists, druggies, drunks. And we love them with Christ’s love and they CHANGE! God is good! Most “Christians” hate our church. It can be tough, but we’ve managed to baptize 600 people THIS YEAR, so I know that God is working on the lost in a big way.
    I also have this type of situation in my personal life. But God is teaching me not to worry about what people think of me, and to do what has the appearance of evil in order to reach others and help them.
    Thanks for this great article!

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    • wow, that is incredible to hear. the church actually BEING the Church!

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    • THAT IS SO FREAKIN’ AWESOME!!!! I love how God can take our totally broken lives and redeem them!!

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    • What a huge challenge, I’m inspired by your church and I’ve never even been :) I have a hard time sometimes because, by nature of the culture/lifestyle, Christian lifers are clean, attractive, and nice so when unclean, ugly, and rough comes into the picture, it feels uncomfortable and very wrong. Can I be horribly honest? I like clean, pretty, smart, nice people, I’ve been spoiled.

      I really mean that, I’ve been messed up in many ways by my sheltered and comfortable lifestyle. I’ve assumed that God doesn’t love messes, he prefers “clean” people. On the flip side, I’ve assumed that Christians don’t have messes. Under the weight of these assumptions, my own “messiness” becomes an unbearable disappointment. But God loves us in the midst of our messiness, his love increases in proportion to our neediness. I think God has allowed me to mess up so grandly, in part, because I didn’t understand this.

      I dare not scorn that which God loves so deeply.

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      • annie

        You hit on so many things, Sarah. Love your closing line.

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        • Thanks Annie,
          It’s tough to realize that I haven’t wanted to love the way that Jesus loves. I have been so self-satisfied in my stingy grace by calling it “discernment,” and me, one who prides herself on her liberal grace (try and logic that one out, whydontcha?).

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          • annie

            Ha!

  13. Agreed. Similar background. Same realizations. Even have gone back and found friends to apologize to that I “avoided” in teen years (even though I was no better in secret).

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    • that you went back and apologized to people… wow. now THAT is grace.

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  14. Sharon White

    I agree with you to an extent. How I see it is this. Jesus is…well…Jesus. He’s not like us. He was fully God and fully man. He was without sin. Therefore, he wasn’t tempted to act as they did. He could remain “pure” and Holy while still being with these people. After all, he’s Jesus. We are NOT Jesus. Therefore, we will be tempted if we hang out in bars to drink too much and begin to act like the world. The Bible clearly warns us to not associate with these kinds of people. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be friends with or friendly to them. However, they are not to be our close friends, our confidants. That is what he had the 12 for. Those were his best friends because they were like minded. I don’t think we have the strength to stay close to Christ and go into those places. We don’t. We are human with natures that are pulled to those things. That’s why people do backslide. You need to take the WHOLE counsel of God’s Word here and not just one verse. He warns us that bad company will change us. 1 Cron. 15:33

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    • Jesus didn’t sin… but He WAS tempted. (Hebrews 4:15 – “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”)

      and i completely agree with the verse that says bad company corrupts good character, but i think the Church’s tendency to run away from all things “bad” isn’t in line with the heart behind that verse either. i just think there’s gotta be something in between the two extremes… something that looks a whole lot like grace…

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      • Sometimes I think we may put the cart before the horse in this area. Our primary calling is to love our neighbor, make disciples of all nations and be a witness for the good news of Christ. We can anticipate the dangers of this calling, like being corrupted by bad company or being tempted into sin and in attempt to mitigate these dangers, we don’t even meet the calling.

        It’s like we have to make a journey to a nearby town but we know there is a rickety bridge along the way. Rather than making plans to find a more secure way to cross the river or to rebuild the bridge, we decide it’s not worth the risk to cross the river at all. Or, even better, it’s like the parable of the 10 talents. Even if we live a respectable, clean life nestled securely within the walls of our church, if we present our Master with only his initial investment because we were unwilling to take the risk or do the extra work to multiply it, we’ve failed Him.

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    • Jenny E

      If the body could be more supportive of people going into these situations, sticking close to those who are loving the “fringes” and providing Christ-loving confidantes when they go into potentially tempting situations instead of banning/abandoning them, wouldn’t that solve a lot of problems?

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    • annie

      Hi Sharon! I tend to be blunt, and this is a subject I’m very passionate about, so I apologize in advance for taking liberties, as I don’t know you. I have a few responses, though.

      Firstly, your comment is based on the assumption that God is interested in “perfect” people. Perfect as measurerd by some “never have a rough spot in their life” standard. Perfect in the sense that “pious” is usually meant. Shunning the “world;” only interested in Godly pursuits. By that of course, we mean spiritual pursuits. Living a life of “holiness.” I put all these in quotes because there IS in fact a true perfection and true holiness, but what the church has typically defined it as is very very far off. Let me put it in specifics.

      Holy people dress conservatively and tastefully.
      Unholy people dress in a loud, dark, provocative, slummy, or glitzy way.
      Holy people say things like “darn” and “God bless.”
      Unholy people say “shit” and “wow, you were lucky.”m
      Holy people go to church.
      Unholy people don’t go to church.
      Holy people never touch alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, R-rated movies, secular music, and anything that hints of a different lifestyle and persuasion.
      Unholy people smoke, drink, do drugs, have tatoos, excessive piercings (ears are okay but nothing else), frequent bars, pubs, and slutty street corners.

      Holy people are “perfect.” Unholy people wear their imperfections on their sleeve.

      But holy was never about that. Never.

      Holiness is related to love. Something which our tight minds don’t understand and can’t accept. We think we’re “loving” people when we try to turn them into pristine little “cleaned up” humans. Jesus was NEVER afraid of turning into a prostitute. Or a drunkard. Or a “sinner.” Why? Not because he was perfect and wouldn’t do it even if it was handed to him on a silver platter. He wasn’t afraid of turning into that BECAUSE THAT WASN’T THE POINT! Their lifestyle meant NOTHING to him. Their hearts meant EVERYTHING to him. This is why he didn’t hang out with Pharisees. This is why he reserved the most venemous speech he ever uttered for those who espoused turning people into white-washed puppets. Because he saw the the HEARTS of the Pharisees, and would have NOTHING to do with it.

      Evil is in the heart. Not in a beer can. Not in a tatoo. Not in an alternative lifestyle. Evil is about HOW WE TREAT PEOPLE. As such, Christians are MUCH more in danger of the harshest of censure from the God we claim to love by how we treat those who look, act, or talk a little differently than us. Or even a lot differently. Religious people, people of “The Book,” those who claimed the closest aquaintance with God … these were the people, as a group, that he attacked and dispised the most. Us. The church. We are that. We don’t have to be. We could see what he saw. We could walk where he walked and love those he loved. REALLY love them. We could.

      Or we could continue to think we are “backsliding” when we look like them.

      They are honest about their flaws. We hide ours. It’s the only way, you see. The only way to really be “perfect.”

      But he likes real.

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      • annie

        By the way, I realize that there are a few posts I could have responded to in a similar way. I am in no way trying to pick on you. It just came out in response to your post.

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  15. alece, this is so interesting, (and you’re spot on about Christ’s ministry and community with *sinners*.)

    i was never really taught this. i always went to concerts and frat parties. most of my friends weren’t christians, and i hung out were they were, just not drinking or whatever, because i never believed any of those places were inherently evil (although someone with different sorts of temptations struggles can and probably should make a different choice…)

    i did consider this verse when it came to (not) having guys sleep over, because appearances do matter. i didn’t see how dancing at a party would compromise my witness, but behind closed doors, it does matters how thing *look*, no matter how chaste/platonic inside. the verse is important, and we should wrestle through it’s implications together, but if the result is us creating an insulated bubble where we aren’t friends with anyone who’s not a christian, something is definitely amiss.

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    • i absolutely agree. God’s grace doesn’t give us a free pass to to sin… but it should compel us to love deeply and scandalously.

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    • I think the key here is motivation. If I’m claiming “liberty” and scorning the idea of “avoiding the appearance of evil” just so I can do whatever I want (like getting wasted or having men sleep on my couch) then I might we walking on shaky ground. But if I’m claiming liberty in order to love someone freely and radically I really don’t care how it “appears.” (But what if I’m talking late in the night with a man about salvation and he falls asleep on my couch….D’oh! You’ve found my loophole.)

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      • heart motivation is definitely something to consider, but underneath some of these arguments is the idea that certain places are sacred while others are “secular” or “evil,” and i just don’t think that’s true.

        certainly, people can draw different lines for themselves, and i’m not saying anyone *should* go to bars or wherever if his conscience says otherwise, but even if one’s motivation is just having fun with her friends and not engaging in some sort of evangelistic mission, being there can still be in the realm of God-honoring, grace-infused living.

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        • YES YES YES. love the way you worded this, suzannah.

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        • This is very true, it’s possible to have a negative gut reaction to certain ideas without ever considering what the reason is. I have spent *considerable* time evaluating what you might call the “gray” areas of accepted Christian culture. I’ve walked both the legalistic and excessive liberty sides of the line and gotten myself into some very unhealthy situations in both cases.

          My lighthouse in this very confusing storm of right and wrong has been the principles of God’s character (grace, love, selflessness, peace, joy, etc) and my own motivations.
          When I talk about freely and radically loving someone, that means on every level from the explicitly “missional” to the most ridiculous kinds of “fellowship.” God finds joy when we enjoy each other and love each other. That’s the motivation that sets me free. But, for the sake of honesty ;) I tend to err on the side of liberty which puts people on edge at times (something I might enjoy a little too much!).

          You’re exactly right though, we picture Jesus walking into the homes of tax collectors and prostitutes with a protective glow of holiness and rubber gloves on rather than just hanging out with and authentically loving people.

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  16. YES YES YES YES YES.

    Thank you so much for this. I love truth.

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  17. Yes, grace runs to those in need of grace. I grew up in church and a home that preached this interpretation of this verse. So many times, I have thought that if Jesus would be the horrible Christian that others whisper about since He ran after those who needed him. Such truth in this post!

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    • “grace runs to those in need of grace” — beautifully put, sarah.

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  18. Very thought-provoking post. I agree that Jesus didn’t run from evil. But there’s also a danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater if we’re not careful. We should not avoid the lost, the needy, the evil of the world, but we should make sure that our actions are a light in that darkness and that our image is clearly an image of the light. The bible does also say that we are to flee certain sins and sinful situations (1 Cor 6:18, as an example) and that we are to avoid the appearance of evil–I think maybe that means on OUR part as we interact with the world. It’s a lot to think about. I think that’s why it so important for everyone to read and study the bible for themselves. Only by earnestly read, STUDYING, and PRAYING can we determine God’s meaning and path for ourselves.

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    • absolutely! grace doesn’t give us license to sin. ever.

      i so appreciated hearing your input on this, jamie.

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  19. I totally agree that Jesus pushed the limits and tested the boundaries, but I still think there’s room for caution. I think that the appearance of evil that we need to avoid is inappropriateness. For example, as a young unmarried girl, the appearance of evil that should be avoided is spending lots of time with a young guy in secluded areas. Or for the male youth leader, the appearance of evil that should be avoided is driving a young girl home alone after youth group is over (he should bring another youth leader with him, a wife if he has one, or a young guy that also needs a ride home and drop the guy off last).

    So, the appearance of evil caution is still a valid one, we just need to shift our paradigm as to which evils are the ones that need to be avoided.

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    • i agree, bekka. there is definitely need for caution and wisdom and discernment, always. i’m so glad you chimed in on this!

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  20. Oh my dang. Great stuff, Alece. Funny how all the legalism of my childhood led to my rebellion in college. I learned all that bad stuff wasn’t necessarily bad, though I took some lessons to an extreme, but it also didn’t fulfill me. Following Christ’s example and looking at my heart through whatever circumstances has brought me to a better place.

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    • YES! i can’t wait to REALLY talk when we get that coffee date rescheduled!

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  21. Fantastic perspective Alece. Thing is that in today’s culture we “shun” the appearance of evil, but in truth, we are evil, we just hide it very well. I really like the song by Jars of Clay called Good Monsters. It talks about all of us being monsters… we are just “good” monsters. But monsters nevertheless. It goes on to say:

    In the absence of a shoulder
    In the absence of a thief
    On the brink of this destruction
    On the eve of bittersweet
    Now all the demons look like prophets
    And I’m living out
    Every word they speak
    Every word they speak

    I long to see the day when we can strip away “church culture”, religion and it can be just us and the Biblical text. Jesus was soooo approachable, I want to model his approach, not the “cultural” approach of our days.

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    • yes! it shows our tendency to consider some sins worse than others, and deem ourselves somehow less in need of grace (or maybe more deserving of it) than other people.

      i’m really glad you piped up, moe.

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  22. Allison

    Yes!!!!

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  23. Oh yes. I know this too well.

    Like you, Alece, I grew up deep in the Christian bubble. I still remember my 7th grade Bible teacher saying, “If you stick a white glove in the mud, what happens? The glove becomes muddy. The mud never becomes glovey. You will always get pulled down and made dirty if you aren’t careful with non-Christians.”

    It sounded like common sense. But as I grew in my faith, I came to see Jesus is anything but common. When he, the most pure white glove, entered the mud, it did indeed change and become glovey.

    Today, I worry more about wearing love than avoiding the appearance of evil (which some people will see in everything I do, regardless). It’s all about focus.

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    • “more about wearing love than avoiding the appearance of evil” — YES. THIS!

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  24. What if the evil spoke of is the judgment, the self-righteousness, the evil of ignoring those that need Jesus? To me, that is the evil Christ detested more than any whoring, lying or thieving.

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  25. I’d like to be eloquent but I’ll just type what I really thought when I read it: A-freaking-men.

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    • you make me smile, sarah!

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  26. AMEN!!!

    Alece, I love this!! Your words echo my heart. I’ve gone through a season where I have surrounded myself with “safe” people, Godly people, and allowed my friendships with others to fall by the wayside for a while…I needed that sanctuary for my heart for a while though. Now…now it’s time to get back in the trenches and get dirty again. I’ve hesitated…I’ve been criticized and disciplined for spending time with seeking people in places that were not approved by others and it hurt. THANK YOU for the reminder that this is where Jesus was and speaking the words that have been echoing in my heart… “But this is what Jesus did…”

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    • so appreciate hearing how this resonated with your heart, jocelyn…

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  27. This post is so refreshing and at the same time a great challenge to me. I am a minister of youth and young adults at a church and I struggle with trying to make sure all my time doesn’t just go to church folks and inside the church office. This is not easy but I know I need to keep striving after that.

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    • i get the tension of the two “extremes” especially within youth ministry… trusting He’ll give you the discernment you need…

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  28. Amen, my sister. I have learned a lot watching mature Christians deal with the temptation to shun someone who wasn’t living to their standards. What I have learned from their example is that you won’t turn a sinner to Christ with strong rebuke but with love and grace.

    Thanks for sharing. This really challenges me.

    -Peace
    Allen

    (Tattooed with Scripture)

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    • thanks for jumping in, allen.

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  29. When it comes to verses like that, I don’t like to extract them from their context. Just before that, there is a verse that states “always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” It would seem to me that the points that follow are just trying to reinforce this thought.

    Also, the original KJV is the only translation (that I normally read) that uses the world “appearance”. Most of the others say “every form of evil”, which in the context has more to do with how we interact with our fellow humans than anything else.

    The scripture that convicts me more than anything else is Matthew 25:31-46 ( http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2025:31-46&version=ESV ). If we can’t reach out to people that are in those conditions (physically and spiritually, mentally, emotionally) for the sake of protecting our reputation, then are we really righteous people at all?

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    • so appreciate the way you unpacked this a bit more, john. thank you!

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  30. I always love seeing what you see, Buzz! You redefined giving grace in such a great way! I always love how Jesus redefined life for everyone all of the time. He is the one we are following – or makes us “Christian,” that requires living scandalously like him. Just love your heart!

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    • thanks, boo. i love you.

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  31. Okay I totally just tweeted you this, but to comment again, this post SCREAMS at me. This is my life!! I have been trying to find the words to say how I want to live my life and how Jesus is with the people I find myself around. Thank you for writing so eloquently what has been on my heart for sometime. Would love to connect with you further on this subject and see what we can conjure up!

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  32. Oh Alece, what a beautiful thing to say.

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    • thank you for being such a consistently strong encouragement, preston.

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  33. Loudest amen, my friend. And, truly, you surely would not be *my* friend if you avoided the appearance of evil. I’m covered. And still blessed to call you “friend.”

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    • and you wouldn’t be mine either… so thankful for grace. for friendship. for you.

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  34. thank you thank you thank you!!! finally somebody who sees what i see and believes it is ok to be in “these places” and still be a christian. i have a book, forgive my forgetfulness, but it was about a man who did just that. he, on purpose, made his way thru society in the worst places imagineable and won so many people to Christ. how else does one reach out? to seek those who don’t know a loving God? its all in the way we approach them. i can go to dinner, have a glass of wine, just to watch my dear husband cringe knowing he’s waiting for our pastor to walk thru the door. and i laugh. my little boy’s dearest friend (who also drives him crazy – but don’t we all drive each other crazy thru friendship) lives next door. they are not the best of folks. no matter how hard i try i can’t get them to church. for awhile their son did go with us but something happened. he became terrified by the noise and the unfamiliar games during vacation bible school. we were doing fine with sunday school, church, and awanas on wednesdays. but, the noise, the unexpected newness gave way to his departure and for that i am sad. i do so wish for my neighbors to come back. and they know it. they drink. the husband has his night out on the town. and life goes on. its hard. i know this. but if anybody from church questions my method of bringing Christ into someone’s life they better be ready for a “come to Jesus meeting!”

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    • “come to Jesus meeting” — ha! haven’t heard that in a long time! ;)

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  35. Alece – I’m truly a fan. Not just of your great writing, but of your attitude. I’m definitely one who loves to make & follow rules (hey – it’s easier!) over getting involved in others’ lives when it’s not convenient. I pray we can all have discernment of when our actions are an excuse or an obstacle. Thanks again, Alece!

    Reply
    • my natural bent is to be a rule follower. tell me what to do and i’ll do it — that way i know i’m meeting expectations and keeping everyone happy. my journey of faith in recent years has shown me how far off that is in terms of my walk with God. eye-opening, freeing, and a little bit frightening all at once.

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  36. Yes be apart of it but be a good example. Be set apart.

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  37. This rocks.

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  38. ‘The scandalousness of grace is that it runs toward evil, not away from it.’ sooooo true.

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  39. Shawn

    I, too, used to be a hard-nosed, rigid, “Bible-believing” Christian. Until I saw that I was just like everyone else. OUCH!! Grace is needed, more by those who scream that others need it more.
    I’ve learned to “Not require others to live according to my conscience (or interpretation).” It’s brought me a lot of peace.
    We are to “compel others to come in”, how can we do that from a pew or Bible study? However, people must be able to see there is a difference in us-we are in the world, but not of it.

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  40. Joey Rodriguez

    While I do agree that there are those who can be religious about certain scriptures to the point where that they take certain scriptures out of context. I do not agree that Jesus ever ran towards evil. James 1:13 ( let no man say when he is tempted that he is tempted by God, for god can not be tempted by evil ). Jesus Christ loved and died and rose again for the lost sinners. But let’s not confuse his love of sinners with a love for sin. I am all for preaching the gospel of salvation to those that are chained up by their sins, I do not need to follow someone into a bar or crack house and hang out there in order that they may hear the gospel. 2 Cor 6:14 ( stop forming inappropiate relationships with unbelievers. Can right and wrong be partners ? Can light have anything in common with darkness? I completely understand underlying point of the article. But my concern is that a young believer reading this article walk away believing that as a christian it’s ok to hang out at bars,drink,party and mingle and engage in a lifestyle that is contrary to the life a Christian is called and expected to live according to God everlasting word. The bible say that we are set apart. That though we are in the world we are not of the world. Jesus Christ died and rose again so that those that believe would live a life that would be fitting to the sacrifice He made. Let’s not turn Gods grace into lasciviousness

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    • i didn’t meant that jesus ran toward evil in order to participate in evil… but He certainly ran toward darkness and evil in order to show them the fullness of His love, truth, and mercy. He Himself said it isn’t the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are sick. He wholeheartedly run towards and embraces the sick. and the sick include you and me, and not just those we deem “worse” than ourselves.

      i agree that grace does not give us license to sin. but it also does not give us the right to hide ourselves away from those who need Him.

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  41. Great post Alece – I think the underlying theme here is that a lot of us were raised under the same belief system.

    TooJoey – while I do not think there are many teenagers or young children out there reading this blog post, even if they are I have to disagree with you. If we have done our job raising our children in a loving truly Jesus-like environment they are going to be able to be around people of all circumstance and know how to react in those circumstances. And even if they don’t do it right the first time, grace still abounds. Praise God, grace abounds for all of us. I have prayed outside a bar kneeling on concrete with a gentleman after I talked with him for over an hour while “frequenting a bar/restaurant” with my husband. He accepted Jesus that night and then still kept in touch with me long afterwards to tell me how much love and acceptance he felt that night – love that he had never been shown before. No, Jesus did not RUN to evil, but he sure didn’t hide from it or shelter himself from it either. He came to save the sinners – that would be you and me and the rest of us walking through this journey called life.

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    • great thoughts, melissa. thank you!

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  42. Heather

    I had a similar upbringing. Christian family. Christian high school. Baptist college. And though not intentional there was a little bit of prejudice that “certain influences” would influence me and I better just be safe. So I was uncomfortable around anyone else that wasn’t in the same Christian circle or wasn’t “walking with the Lord.” In the past few years though I have been humbled and broken to just be available. I don’t have to fear anything, or anyone. Sin doesn’t win. There is beauty here.

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    • “In the past few years though I have been humbled and broken to just be available. I don’t have to fear anything, or anyone. Sin doesn’t win. There is beauty here.” — so so powerful, heather!

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  43. Alece, this is magnificent. Your words will be simmering in me for a good long time. YOU are such a gift!

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    • thank you so much, my friend. love you.

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  44. Yeah!!!

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  45. Joey

    Alece,
    I applaud you for sharing your story ans sheding some light on how religeous we all can be at times. I absolutely agree that Jesus is for the lost,hurting,drug addicts,abused etc. I was once lost. Involved in gangs and drugs and afetr getting saved in 1998 my life was transformed by His grace and mercy. My issue with the article was simply that while Jesus has always been for the lost and broken and yes he runs towards them with mercy and grace. He depsises sin,evil and anything that opposes righteousness. He opposes it and hates it because it was the very thing that seperated us from Him in the first place. Too Melissa, I am grateful that you and your husband were able to lead someone to the lord at a bar. I am not saying that we should hide our liight and be afraid of darkness. We were not given a spirit of fear. The bible states that we are more than conquerers. My point was that we should use discernment and Godly wisdom when we go into places or situations that may temp us because God states also that he is not to be tested. Jesus made that clear when He was tempted by the devil on the mountain top. I use to minister to crack addicts but I never attempted to go to a crack house to do it. Discernment is key when we are sharing the Gospel and waging war on the plans of the enemy. I realize that churches and people many times have a tendency to become very religeous and fanatical about certain scriptures to the point where they miss the point or the purpose of it. Jesus spoke up against religion and its leaders because He understood that religion will bind and chain you as much as sin will. He stated this in the religious temples to the jewish leaders of His day when He heald a cripple man on the sabbath. Again I appreciat your article and I was not trying to engage you in an argument or belittle your article at all.

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    • i so appreciate your thoughts and input, joey. and you’re absolutely right that wisdom and discernment is KEY! thank you for dialoguing through this with us.

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  46. Joey

    Alece,

    I pray that my response was not a discouragemnt to you and what you hope to accomplish in writing this article. It is so amazing when we as christians can talk and share regardless of what angle we approach or see things from. I encourage you to continue sharing your views and experiences with others. You are awesome and I pray that your life will lead many to Christ as I am sure it has already ,

    God Bless You
    Joey

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    • not a discouragement at all — i appreciated your input to the conversation!

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  47. Wow. I loved how you made us all “think differently” about that phrase–the appearance of evil! In the church we’ve got lots of modern day pharisees and honestly I’ve found myself right there, judging, with a list of dos and donts because sometimes a list is easier to follow and less risky than Jesus…but Jesus is more worth it!

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    • yes! to-do lists are “easier” and way less risky “than jesus” — i love the way you put that.

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  48. Great thoughts Alece.

    It definitely is a heart check for those of us who might be prone to use this as an excuse not to pursue people who need Christ because their choices are contrary to God’s Word. It’s definitely a hard balance though too (as the comments reflect) – to pursue the ones He loves, without compromising our set-apartness in Him.

    One thing that I reflected on when reading your examples – that Jesus had a particular person He was pursuing in each of them. He was intentional with His pursuit and didn’t let their circumstances stop Him from it. Maybe that’s instructive for us as we strive to emulate Him.

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  49. I love this. I’s bizarre (and yet bizarrely normal) to temper grace with “prudence.” I’ve heard hundreds of iterations of “We want to have grace, but we have to be smart.” When did grace become stupid? When did we decide that Jesus’s brand of reckless, foolish, undeserved grace had no place in our church or family? It’s too much (many?) Proverbs and not enough John.
    -Thanks for this.

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  50. Georgi

    Yes! I just read “Hound of Heaven” this morning, and these words: “Unhurrying chase, unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy” – how could He “avoid the appearance of evil” when He is following the lost?

    Thank you, Alece.

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    • i’ve always heard amazing things about that book…

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  51. Angie Batey

    I have no doubt that when Christ returns He will be welcomed with open arms by the righteous. I have no doubt that, to many, He will look like the devil because his presence will frighten the wicked just like His presence frightened them 2000 years ago.

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  52. In this, I heard Jesus speaking!Running towards evil is what Jesus’ gospel was about. And it is the same gospel we need to embrace, one so full of grace and love.Beautiful post!

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  53. annie

    Omg, omg, omg, omg. Not only was I JUST thinking about this line the other day, but … I agree wholeheartedly AND you answered some questions I’ve had, AND you confirmed some things I’ve thought. Thank you thank you thank you.

    I would say as a caveat (having not read the comments, so I don’t know if this has been discussed) that in order to apply this in a manner consistent with the example of Jesus it would be good to track new paths for what “evil” is exactly. Christians have taught for centuries (and Jews before that–thus the crowd that Jesus was actually addressing and encountering himself) that “evil” has to do with being imperfect. Not having all your shit together. Not looking pristine and holy and righteous. Not living the “god-like” example that of course is expected of us mortals. But nowhere has God required this. In fact, the group which Jesus came down hardest on was the one espousing just these things. And Jesus called them white-washed tombs and sons of Satan. Said they cleaned only the outside of the glass while inside was evil and corruption. Evil is in the heart, Jesus said. And he defined evil perhaps most clearly in who he shunned and who he embraced.

    I am so glad you’ve said this. So glad you’ve pointed this out. So glad I’m not the only one who thinks this. So glad to find truth in the midst of so much convolution. Thank you, Alece.

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  54. annie

    PS: I just realized I am WAY behind responding to this post. !!! Oh well. :)

    Reply

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