Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22
History and Context:
The letters to the church in Thessalonica are believed to be the oldest writings in the new testament. In Acts 17:1-9 we seee the account of Paul's visit to Thessalonica. Problems arose and the church sent him away for his safety. Not long after Paul sent Timothy from Corinth back to Thessalonica in order to see how the church was going. Timothy returned with good news and Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians is his response to the good news. It is full of rejoicing over the church and is also confirming some of his teaching and answers some questions.
Here the text is quite simple. This comes from Paul's closing remarks in which he gives a list of short instructions. "Pray without ceasing", "In everything give thanks", and "test all things". He says to test everything and cling to the good. He then says to abstain, or stay away from, evil. Latch onto good things and ideas but leave the bad ones alone.
Christians have often misunderstood this. For some reason people want to test things and cling to the bad. They see the bad and they throw everything out and just start telling everyone about the bad stuff that they found. There are entire websites devoted to showing everyone all the "bad" things which big name preachers have said over the years. This is not what Paul was saying. Paul said to test things in order to find good. Yes we should abstain from the evil but our goal is to find the good. Start looking for the good in people, sermons, books, etc. It creates division to focus on the parts that we disagree on, it creates unity to recognize that many of those issues aren't essential and leave them alone.
Lord, help me to seek out good and to simply leave the bad. Help me to bring unity among the churches instead of division. Lead me in your Spirit Lord. Thank you! In Jesus' name, Amen!