As an aside to last week’s post, here is an example of how getting the bible translation wrong can affect how we behave.

Thessalonians Chapter 5:22 (KJV)

Abstain from all appearance of evil.

I have seen this verse used to justify not drinking hot coco from Starbucks because somebody might think you are drinking coffee (which if black, would be much healthier for you, but I digress). It is used to justify not shopping in a liquor store for a candy bar, because somebody might think you are buying something else.

What about the BYU dress code? Men are not allowed to wear beards. This was enforced during a time of “hippy” rebellion, the counter culture. A beard gave the “appearance” of association with these hippies, the appearance of evil.

Let’s look at several modern translations of the same Greek phrase:

NIV: reject every kind of evil
ESV & NRSV: Abstain from every form of evil
CEV: don’t have anything to do with evil
ASV: abstain from every form of evil

It seems what this scripture means to say is “stay away from all evil no matter how it looks”, as opposed to what seems to be a common church member interpretation of “don’t do anything that could appear to be evil.”. The focus is not on avoiding anything that someone else might perceive to be bad, but rather to avoid that which truly is evil.

If I am a Minister to a person who is only “available” when he is in a bar, should I go into that bar to visit him? If a woman is walking home in the pouring rain and I have the ability to help her, should I refuse to do so simply because someone might see me and jump to an incorrect conclusion? When I was a kid, my mom was leaving the neighborhood grocery store with a hand full a groceries to walk the 6 blocks to our home when she saw our next door neighbor bishop in the parking lot. She asked for a ride home. The bishop became flustered, and you’d have thought my dear sweet mom had propositioned him. He did give her a ride, but was clearly uncomfortable being seen alone with my mother.

What if being Christ like causes people to judge us as we help the LGBT community, the homeless, immigrants, prisoners, drug addicts, and sex trafficked women?

Many years ago I was riding my bicycle to work. As I was riding up the street, I saw a “pornographic magazine” [1] ripped up and spread across the sidewalk. It was clearly obvious what is was even as I just glanced down as I sped past. As I looked up from the sidewalk I saw a group of elementary school kids walking towards the magazines, about 100 yards away. Without giving it a second thought, I turned around, rode back, got off my bike, and gathered up all the magazine pages and stuffed them in my backpack. I then rode off to work, passing the kids. I got rid of the pages in a dumpster outside my work building. I really didn’t think about if members of my ward were looking, or what they would have thought about “Brother Bill” (I was not bishop yet!) picking up pornography!

I soon forgot about the episode until about six months later when a member of the SP was speaking in our sacrament meeting. He was speaking about the evils of pornography, and told about driving down the street when he saw several pornographic magazines on the road. [2] He told about stopping at a traffic light, looking in his review mirror, and seeing a car slowdown by the magazines, the driver opened his door and scooped up the magazines. The SP counselor talked about what an evil world we lived in, and how this persons mind was now polluted with the things of the world. At that moment, me picking up the magazines six months earlier came back, and I was so thankful he had not seem me, or I would have been the subject of his talk! [3] I did not avoid the appearance of evil.

What ways have you seen the misapplication of this scripture by members due to its mistranslation? How can the proper translation help us to be a better person, and more Christ like?

[1] This was 30 years ago, and I think the magazine was either a Playboy or Penthouse.

[2] How he could tell from his drivers seat that the magazines were pornographic was not explained in his talk, but left me pondering how it happened.

[3] maybe if he had seen me, I would have never been called as bishop!