Originally written by Josiah Schmidt for GothsForJesus.com on October 14th 2003.
“Abstain from all appearance of evil.”I Thessalonians 5:22
If you’re a Christian Goth, you’ve probably had this verse twisted up and thrown in your face on multiple occassions. There are some in the church who do not put up with sound doctrine and in order to set stumbling blocks in front of their brothers and sisters, they take scripture out of context and use it to condemn other believers. First Thessalonians 5:22 is one such abused bible passage. Are Goths failing to abstain from the appearance of evil by dressing in black, dying their hair, applying makeup, or whatever they do? If you think they are, then perhaps you should read the rest of this article.
First of all, we need to take this scripture in context and then define what is meant by “appearance” and what is meant by “evil.”
Let us begin by reading the passage in which verse 22 appears:
19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.King James Version
19 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil.New International Version
The apostle Paul, who wrote I Thessalonians as a letter to the church in Thessalonica, began in verse 19 a discussion of the Holy Spirit. He commanded the Thessalonian believers not to inhibit the work of the Holy Ghost in the church and to allow other believers to prophesy if they received a prophetic message. However, Paul admonished the Thessalonian Christians to test those prophecies with the Word of God. The King James Version (KJV), as you can see, does not have the most accurate, literal wording, since the English language has changed so much since 1611 when the KJV first came on the scene. While it says “prove” all things, it really means “test” all things. If “prove” were the correct translation of the word, then it would mean that Christians are to try to prove the validity of any prophecy made whether or not it really is true. So, as one can see, the archaic words used in the King James Version are not accurate in today’s setting. The same goes for the word “appearance” as used in the KJV. Translations like the NIV and NKJV have changed the word to “every kind” or “every form” of evil. Paul wrote his letters in the Greek language, and so when we take his work back to the original language, we see that Paul used the word “eidos.” This is most accurately translated as “form” or “shape.” It has nothing to do with clothing style or pigment color. And what does Paul mean when he says “evil?” The original Greek word used in verse 22 for “evil” is “poneros,” which does not mean “black clothing, black hair, white makeup, silver jewelry, etc.” Actually the word was used to mean “calamitous, diseased, mischievous, malice, guilt, sinful, grievous, harmful, or lewd.” While I’m not saying that Goths can’t be sinful, harmful, lewd, etc., I am saying that ‘Gothicism’ is not any of those things. The average Goth is no more sinful than the average non-Goth. In fact, Goths are some of the most calm, accepting, pacifistic people in Western society.
Therefore, we have established that Gothicism does not fit into the definition of “evil” as used in I Thessalonians 5:22, and also, “appearance” as used in verse 22 is not talking about outward appearance (such as clothing style).
So, what would a person from the 17th century have taken the “appearance of evil” verse to mean? All it means is avoiding evil (mischief, lewdness, harm, etc.) of any kind or form. It has nothing to do with dressing Goth. The apostle Paul was warning the Thessalonians to avoid the evil prophecies in particular. “21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil.”
When one looks at the passage in context, things start to make a little more sense.
But then the question comes down to this: Is wearing Goth clothing a form of evil?
An interesting tidbit: one of the earliest paintings of Jesus (a 6th century painting in St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai) features Jesus wearing all black.
Also, another fact is this: “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light,” II Corinthians 11:14. Therefore, we can conclude only one thing–that your appearance does not make you any more or less holy than you already are. Whether your favorite color is blue, red, pink, white, or black, God does not care. (But this, of course, does not excuse anyone from wearing sexually suggestive or immoral clothing).
Since Satan’s appearance is an angel of light, does that make him holy? And since Jesus might have worn all black at one point in time, did that make him any unholier then? Of course not!
Paul also wrote in Titus 1:15, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.” To those whose minds are impure with hatred, bigotry, and jealousy, the Gothic style appears impure, because that’s all they want to see. The poor people who have been raised up in our rich, suburbian, preppy homes, being indoctrinated with all the stereotypes of the previous generations cannot see things for what they are, because they’ve already had it drilled into their mind that anyone who does not conform to society is strange and bad.
Sheri Luckey Watters, of the Christian-Gothic musical group, “Wedding Party,” said, “A dean of a bible college once told me that the way I dress was not conducive to the Christian walk. That’s when I told him I had been around the mafia in Florida and they wore suits and ties and were murderers and their clothing was no more holy than mine.”
The fact that you can not judge someone by the way they dress is echoed in scripture: In I Samuel 16:7, it is written, “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance. . . The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'”
So, in light of all these things, please keep this in mind as you go out into the world and encounter Christians of all types. Be careful not to judge anyone out of stereotypes, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2).
Love in the blood of Christ,