"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?
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.
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?