We live in a world where most of us make judgements with less than all of the facts. After all, it’s almost impossible to have all of the facts. The problem is that we often don’t even have enough facts but that doesn’t stop us from reaching certain conclusions.
Mary Poppins addressed our penchant for quick assumptions when she sang; A cover is nice, but a cover is not the book. Her point is that you can’t judge people by their looks – there’s more to them than you see on the outside. There’s some truth to her downhome philosophy. Too often we pass judgment on people based solely on external, even trivial things.
A cover is not the book.
But there are times when we need to pay attention to appearance. Not our physical appearance (although it would help if some people did!) but our spiritual appearance. People make judgements on the authenticity of your spiritual life by how your life appears to them.
1 Thessalonians 5:22 says abstain from every kind of evil. Some of the older translations say abstain from all appearance of evil. The original word can mean either kind or appearance. There’s really not much difference between the two. Appearing to do evil is one kind of evil. One translation is more general the other is more specific.
Regardless of which translation you prefer, the concept of how we as Christians appear to other people is important. That’s one reason there is an emphasis in the Bible on holiness. Because we are to be holy and we are to appear to be holy.
When people look at us they shouldn’t have to wonder if we are holy or not. They shouldn’t have to think about the rightness or wrongness of our actions.
It’s entirely appropriate in evaluating our actions to ask the question, How does this appear to my neighbor? Do they think that I’m lying? Do they think that I’m cheating my employer? Do they think that I’m committing adultery?
They may jump to the wrong conclusions because they don’t have all of the facts, but that’s really our problem, not theirs. We have to make sure that whatever facts they have, however limited, are in line with the Word of God.
What exactly do people think when they look at me? What does the appearance of my life tell them?
What they think is often determined by what they see. And even if they don’t see it all – or if they see it inaccurately, the burden falls on us.
Appearance is everything.
Stay in the Word