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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I am in sin if I "avoid the appearance of evil"

Much of what we have learned in church, Sunday School and (gasp) seminary is wrong.

The list of Scriptures (atomized "memory verses" out of context, and interpreted through the grid of rationalistic modernity) we have always (mis)understood is almost endless; and the terrible irony is that often the plain and obvious (in context) meaning is opposite what we have always been told.

For example, people actually believe the Bible says "God will never give you more than you can handle." (see God Always Gives Us More Than We Can Handle  and God Will Always Give You More Than You Can Handle).

For another example, you have heard that Jesus would rather have us be hot (on fire for God) or even cold (no heart for God) than being lukewarm.  (see: WWJP Why Would Jesus Puke?: let's be hot AND cold, as Jesus wants)



(see a few examples here)

This is definitely one of my pastoral pet peeves.

Tia Linn, a "Jersey Girl Among the Georgia Peaches," has done the most amazing job I have seen yet on exposing one of the biggest myths:

You know, the "The Bible says 'Avoid the appearance of evil', so don't put yourself in a situation where you could be accused of being in sin...." myth.

If you are not aware of the obvious problem (King James translation, and read out of context...what else is new?) with this memory verse that is nowhere in the Bible, read her blog post.

She makes the point that

It is possibly the most misunderstood, misused verse in the entire bible.
We've all had it said to us and we have probably said it to others. It's usually
applied when we feel someone isn't actually sinning, but we believe that some
unidentified lurking spy could misconstrue our behaviour as sin because it
"looks bad."..Most of the time, people unknowingly misuse this verse with the
VERY BEST INTENTIONS, because they desire to appear their very best, so they can lead people to Christ..

The misused version of this verse only heightens our already unhealthy
fixation on appearances and superficial piety instead of true substance. The
terms of what appears evil are usually defined by those who are offended with a
particular activity that can't be classified as real sin, thus it appears evil.
The whole thing breeds suspicion, judgmentalism, and even idolatry. When we
start assigning more power to inanimate objects or activities than they actually
possess, it can turn to a form of idolatry...

We all know it is completely impossible to abstain from the appearance of
evil. We can't even abstain completely from that which is actually evil, let
alone innocent liberties that could possibly appear evil if someone was walking
by and squinting....The real issue is that JESUS appeared evil ALL the time, especially to religious people. He ate and drank (wine, not grape juice,
baptists), he turned water into wine to keep the festivities going for people
who had been drinking all day, hence the accusations of being a wine-bibber and
glutton. He hung around with tax collectors and prostitutes and went into places
deemed "unclean." He didn't perform the ceremonious hand cleansing rituals. He
didn't follow the man-made religious traditions of the sabbath. He was with the
woman at the well all alone, a Samaritan no less. People accused Jesus of being
demon possessed because of how he appeared.

link (emphasis mine)

My response below; upping the ante,

but making only a basic/101 conclusion.

This is NOT a non sequitur, not a fallacious strtech;

not a reductionistic heresy.

And I was thrilled to see (by a simple googling here) that many of the top posts actually get it right...

Do the math!

It is simply inevitable that:

1."Jesus appeared evil ALL the time, especially to religious people."

2. We are to follow Jesus.

3.If we do not appear evil much (maybe all) of the time, we are in sin and not faithfully following Jesus.

Now don't hear what I'm not saying: Go thou therefore and purposely look like you are attending an adult movie just to be seen and to tweak the fundies. Go and pull a Ted Haggard with God's blessing
But if I have not been seen near an adult theatre, a gay film festival, or a prostitute lately,
I should shred my pastoral orders, and re-read the Book.
Where else would Jesus be?
If you are not familiar with C.S. Lewis' "Screwtape Letters," which Bono (literally) took a page from here:
What if that image of purity is the image of a Christian in the original state
of grace? As it is to many people. One night I was doing my..devil dance on
stage with a young girl, in Wales, and she said "are you still a believer? If
so, what are you doing dressed up as the devil?" I said "have you read the
Screwtape Letters?" Which is a C.S. Lewis book that a lot of intense Christians
are plugged into. They are letters from the devil. That's where I got the whole
philosophy of mock-the-devil-and-he-will-flee-from-you. So she said "yes" and I
said "so you know what I'm doing." Then she relaxed and said "I want to bless
and of course inherited much misunderstanding from religious "squeakies"... should be.
But don't let anyone actually see you reading about Bono. You must avoid every appearance of evil, brethren. Watch this expose of these "false prophets" and get enlightened!! (:


  1. I am so honored that my post blessed you. I took a lot of heat for my stance on that verse for many years, so whenever people write to me and are encouraged, it means the world to me! And I love BONO too. What are the odds? He's such a great example of honest faith, unbound from the pretenses of image....

  2. Tia

    keep up the great work.
    you take heat for faithfully following Jesus and really reading the Bible.
    God will honor that bg time


  3. Interesting thoughts.
    I tend to dissect worship songs that we've sung to see if the lyrics are actually Biblical or if they just make us feel good. My latest post here:
    is kinda about that.

    I always cringe when people say, "The Lord works in mysterious ways" unless it's Bono.

  4. One exception: we should avoid fellowship with so-called believers who are unrepentant, as described in 1 Cor. 5.

    Posted by a spy.


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!