Pet Sayings Exposed and Exploded Number 10 "Abstain from all appearance of evil"
By David Heesen
I know what you’re thinking. Our “pet saying” (1 Thess. 5:22) is right out of the Bible so what could possibly be wrong with it?
Admittedly I wondered if I should even include it in my “pet saying” series. All doubt was removed though when I asked my son-in-law this morning what he thought was the most abused scripture in the Bible. Immediately he replied, “abstain from all appearance of evil.” That settled it for me.
Not being a KJV-Only person, I can say without blushing that this is an instance where the KJV does not speak to modern minds correctly. The modern mind reads this, “shun whatever even seems to be evil.” A truer sense would read, however, “when evil appears, shun it.”
That’s quite a difference. It is my own opinion that the modern-day legalistic fundamentalist would be disappointed to find out what the verse is really saying, because there is hardly a day that passes that he hasn’t dutifully reminded people that they shouldn’t be doing a lot of “stuff” because it seems to be evil.
I remember well an exchange of email I had with one of these funny-mentalists who preferred the abused modern interpretation over the truer sense. He figured if it was stricter, more forbidding, then it was better. He didn’t care what the verse was actually saying; he only cared what he wanted it to say.
I ask you: is this how we are to treat God’s Word? Isn’t there a verse somewhere forbidding not only man’s subtracting from God’s commandments, but adding to them?
Googling “appearance of evil,” I found several good essays about this verse. Here’s one:
The problem with saying that Christians should avoid “questionable behavior” is that we have all kinds of opinions as to what is or is not questionable behavior. Obviously we are not talking about SIN or wrongs as described and given by God. We most definitely are to avoid disobeying God. But when it comes down to matters of Christian freedom and liberty then this misapplication of 1 Thess. 5:22 must be challenged. I might not like what you do but if it isn’t sin I should keep my mouth shut and allow you to enjoy your freedom in Christ. It is amusing to me, now that I’ve been a believer for over 30 years, how many things I’ve seen be “evil” to one generation of believers are not to the next. I can remember when guitars (even acoustic) were said to have the appearance of evil. Drums were not allowed in church, then they became allowed in Sunday night services and now they are found in the morning service of every growing church! Were these things really evil? Not to God! The sad thing is that when today’s young Christians, who do things once taboo by the older generation, still find “the appearance of evil” in things that are pure and of no consequence to God.
In summary, the verse is saying to shun evil itself, rather than just the mere semblance of