What about the Strange Practices in Outward Appearance?


What about the Strange Practices
in Outward Appearance?

Tattoo? Piercings? Earrings? Studs?
Weird Hairstyles? Bizarre clothes?
Many Strange Externals?

An unusual, provocative, but needed examination
of many of the Appearance issues in Contemporary Culture

Today we observe strange bodily piercing, unnatural appearances, unusual jewelry, unisex clothes, and bizarre patterns.  This is particularly the case in the youth culture of the 10- to 25-year-old crowd.  The Hip Hop culture, the Heavy Metal devotees, the Sodomites, and other young and not-so-young movements offer the best examples of this, but it can be found across the board in contemporary life—including even 80-year-olds!

Most attempts to justify this bizarre appearance rest on the basic fallacy that each person is free to do what he or she wants.  There is no external authority, no ultimate right or wrong, and surely no God who would impose His absolute will on His creatures.  Some of this arises from the rebellious 1960s during the sexual revolution.  Part comes from the humanistic philosophy that asserts that each person is autonomous, may make his own decisions, and may choose his own lifestyle, clothes, music, appearance, and everything else—since either God doesn’t exist or, if there is a God, He surely would not impose His will and a standard of truth on anyone.  Like the period of the Judges in Israel, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

A few people who have a minimum of Biblical knowledge may attempt to justify their rebellious forms of appearance by appealing to certain adornment practices in the Old Testament period.  It is important to remember a basic principle of Biblical interpretation.  It is this: Much that existed before the time of Jesus Christ was regulated by the Law of Moses, and this administration of Law and life was fulfilled in Christ Jesus (Matthew 5:17-20; Romans 10:4; Ephesians 2:14-16; Colossians 2:15-17; Hebrews 8:7, 13).  See also our booklet, The Old Covenant and the New Covenant, which shows many contrasts between these two systems and ways of life.  Besides this, it is true that Israelite life differed from the ideal that is set forth in the life of Christ and the apostles that came later.

When we come to the new covenant of Christ (the New Testament period), we notice that God brings a deeply spiritual way of living.  It affects our speech, behavior, use of time, stewardship of possessions, generosity with money, physical appearance—and every other sphere of living.  God wants His people—true believers in Jesus Christ—to be vastly different from the world around them. 

Paul exhorts believers, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).  James gives this counsel to the follower of Christ: “. . . keep oneself unstained by the world” (1:27b).  He goes so far as to say, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (4:4).  Notice another strong denunciation of being worldly-oriented: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15; cf. vv. 16-17).  See also our work, The Deadly Peril of the World!

But what about the various worldly examples of appearance that are popular today?  Any spiritually-oriented person will see the emptiness of these worldly expressions of outward appearance.  Just as the swastika symbolizes the evils of Nazism and the crescent moon immediately brings to mind Islam, so various items of appearance point to a culture, a way of living, a philosophy of life.  And much of this is entirely antithetic to the pure and perfect ways of God revealed in His Word.  

Further, probably any unbiased person—even if he or she is not truly saved and forgiven—will be able to see how unnatural and perverse these outward appearances are. Yet there is a limit to this, for God’s thoughts and ways are not man’s thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).  We also know that when a young man or woman dresses in a certain bizarre way or adorns himself or herself with a peculiar fashion, according to their cultural milieu, we know that they choose to violate the very principles of nature and especially the revealed will of God.  Jesus explained, “That which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).  When they fashion themselves according to their wicked, ungodly, rebellious, and sinful leaders and companions, they do that which is detestable in God’s sight!

Instead of having a focus on God and His will, revealed in Scripture, these rebels choose to gratify their fleshly appetites by centering their life, their heart, and their attention on shameful externals.  They may brazenly appear in public so that others will see their rebellious demeanor and freakish appearance.  They want to emulate their cultural icons, their Hip Hop celebrities, their Rock performers, and their sports personalities. 

Remember this: A young person will not only be guilty of strange appearance, but many other aspects of life will be affected.  It will be manifested in a rebellious form of music—including Hip Hop, rap, Rock, and Country, with its loud electronic instrumentation and wild behavior.  It will often be connected with drugs and drink.  It will be expressed in sexual fornication or unrestrained promiscuity.  It will be seen in their very philosophy of life.  And it will be manifested in their religion—or lack of any religion.  It will be anti-Christ to the core.

Many principles of Scripture bear upon this matter.  The question is:  What does God think about such things as the following:

·         Nose rings and studs

·         Eyebrow rings

·         Tongue jewelry

·         Lip jewelry

·         Earrings and studs on men

·         Earrings and studs on women

·         Strangely colored hair

·         Short hair for women

·         Long hair for men

·         Bizarre hair styles

·         Unusually cut hair

·         Bracelets, necklaces, ankle rings

·         Multiple finger rings

·         Piercings on other parts of the body

·         Tattoos on the face, neck, arms, legs, and body

·         Fingernail polish

·         Toenail polish

The list could continue.  The human being is very creative in finding new ways to adorn the face, head, arms, legs, and whole body!  These radicals go to great length to “fit in” with their own crowd, while they strive to be different from the average person, especially those of an earlier generation! 

Obviously, we will not find a New Testament prohibition that says, “You shall not tattoo your arms!”  Nor will we read, “You shall not cut half of your hair off!”  We won’t read, “You shall not dye your hair green, blue, or yellow!”  And we will hunt in vain to read, “You shall not pierce your face!”  The new covenant writings do not give these kinds of precise regulations for the followers of Christ.  On the other hand, Jesus and His apostles and the New Testament prophets give many principles that speak to the question we are considering.  Notice a few of them:

1.      We are to always do that which is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute (Philippians 2:8).

2.      We are not to be conformed to the world (Romans 12:2).

3.      We are to glorify God with our body (1 Corinthians 6:20; Romans 12:1).

4.      All that we do is to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

5.      True, genuine, outgoing love should motivate all that we do with others and before them (1 Corinthians 16:14; Romans 13:8-10; Mark 12:28-31).

6.      We should seek to be honorable in the sight of others (2 Corinthians 8:21; 1:12; Romans 12:17; Hebrews 13:18).

7.      We are to be light to others—not represent darkness and evil (Matthew 5:14-16; Philippians 2:15).

8.      We are to deny ourselves (Mark 8:34) and have crucified the flesh (Galatians 5:24)—and this includes all self-centered and fleshly practices.

9.      All pride and prideful attitudes and expressions are sinful and must be renounced (Proverbs 16:5, 18).

10.  We are to live with an attitude of humility (Matthew 23:12; James 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 5:5-6).

11.  We are to be dressed in proper, respectable, and suitable clothing (1 Timothy 2:9, NASB, ESV, NET Bible).

12.  We are to be dressed modestly (1 Timothy 2:9).

13.  We are to be dressed discreetly and with self-control (1 Timothy 2:9, NASB, ESV).

14.  We are not to have elaborately braided hair (1 Timothy 2:9).

15.  We are not to be adorned with gold or pearls (1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 3:3).

16.  It is a dishonor for a man to have long hair (1 Corinthians 11:14).

17.  It is a glory for a woman to have long hair (1 Corinthians 11:15).

18.  We are to make no provision for the flesh by participating in fleshly indulgence (Romans 13:14).

19.  We are not to participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11).

20.  It is not profitable, helpful, or a blessing for a man or woman to wear certain articles (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23).

21.  We must do nothing or wear nothing that would cause a fellow-believer to stumble into sin by encouraging him or her to do something they cannot conscientiously do (1 Corinthians 8:9,11,12,13; Romans 14:13).

22.  We should not do anything to hurt a fellow-believer (Romans 14:15).

23.  We are to give no offense to either the believer or unbeliever (1 Corinthians 10:32).

24.  We should do nothing to please ourselves but should be sure our appearance blesses others (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:33; Romans 15:2).

25.  We should do nothing to harm a brother or sister (Romans 13:10).

26.  We should discipline our body and make it our slave (1 Corinthians 9:27).

27.  We should recognize the major difference between the believer and the unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14-16).

28.  The Christian is to cleanse himself from “all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

29.  We should be a good example to both believer and unbeliever (1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7).

30.  We should flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness (2 Timothy 2:22).

31.  We should abstain from fleshly lusts that wage war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11).

32.  We should look like a godly person (1 Timothy 2:9-10) and our heart should be reflected in our appearance (1 Peter 3:3-4).

33.  Men should look masculine and women should look feminine, without the blurring of the gender appearance (cf. Deuteronomy 22:5; Genesis 1:27).

34.  We should seek to follow the example of Paul (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 4:9).

35.  We should seek to follow in the steps of Jesus Christ and be conformed to His likeness (1 Peter 2:21; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18).

36.  We should not do anything that is connected with a rebellious attitude or demeanor (1 Samuel 15:23).

37.  We should not adopt the appearance of evil persons in society (cf. Proverbs 7:10).

38.  We should to nothing that would associate us with foolish and wrongful companions (1 Corinthians 15:33; Proverbs 13:20; Psalm 1:1).

39.  We should apply the “fruit” test to all of these matters—what is the normal, natural, and usual fruit associated with these worldly practices (c. Matthew 7:17, 20; 12:33).

40.  We are to draw near to God and this cannot be done when we indulge in worldly, compromising, perverse, and evil practices (James 4:8; cf. 2 Chronicles 15:2).

41.  We should not set our minds on the flesh but on the Spirit, and this will be manifested in our outward appearance (Romans 8:5-8).

42.  Make sure that your outward appearance is not a mere show.  Shun hypocrisy!  Let your outward appearance express a heart of devotion to God. (cf. Matthew 23:25-28)

Although there are many other principles and teachings in the New Testament that bear upon this present concern, this should be sufficient to show that the kinds of appearance issues we noticed earlier should have no place in our life.  The Christian is a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17)!  This means that he has denied self and renounced his own self-centered, self-directed, self-glorifying, and self-oriented ways (Mark 8:34; Romans 6:1-11)!  This also means that his entire way of life is directed by the Word of God, his entire focus is on Jesus Christ the Lord, and his goal is to glorify His beloved God.

The many cultural appearance issues of our contemporary youth culture should be renounced as one focuses on God and His Word.  The true believer should not only think differently and speak differently, but he should also appear differently from the rebellious elements of society!  Literally run from the Hip Hop look, the Rock appearance, the sodomite and lesbian appearance, and begin to look like the Godly, righteous, and Christ-centered person that God wants for you!

Others may call you “straight” or ultra-conservative.  They may label you peculiar, laughable, foolish, fanatical, Victorian, old-fashioned, prudish, modest, crazy, idiotic, ludicrous, heavenly-minded, religious, outdated, fundamentalist, Bible-believer, outdated, or ignorant!  But remember this: “They will give account to Him [God] who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5, cf. vv. 1-5). 

Although we have focused on the younger generation in today’s world, we know that older and self-style “respectable” men and women have their own problems with hypocrisy.  How many middle-age and older people have denounced the bizarre styles of the young, while they also have compromised the standards of Scripture!  How many adult men relish the rich-looking suits and the expensive jewelry!  How many adult women delight in short hair, worldly hair styles, costly jewelry, and fine clothing!  See our booklet, Pleasing God in Personal Appearance, for Scriptural counsel in all of this.

We would encourage you to earnestly strive to look like a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.  Stay far away from the ways of the world and give obvious, clear, unambiguous devotion to the kingdom of God in your outward appearance.  Determine to truly show yourself to be saved:

·         Brothers, look like a man!

·         Sisters, look like a woman!

·         Don’t be conformed to the world.

·         Men, keep your hair neat and trimmed.

·         Women, allow your hair to be natural and long.

·         Don’t wear wild, freakish, and unconventional styles.

·         Don’t dress in bizarre, mix-matched colors.

·         Don’t dress in revealing, sexy clothing.

·         Don’t clothe yourself in see-through, provocative dress.

·         Keep a smile on your face.

·         Have an obvious wholesome look in your countenance.

·         Don’t paint your face.

·         Don’t ornament yourself with jewelry of any kind.

·         Don’t identify with ungodly people.

·         Keep neat and clean.

·         Have others focus on Jesus through you.

·         Don’t draw evil attention to yourself.

Let us turn from every prideful, worldly, and fleshly practice—and let us walk humbly with God in our outward appearance.  Only those who turn from pride and walk in humility can be saved!  Let us repent of our hypocrisy, trust in God and the sacrifice of the risen Savior, Jesus Christ.  Let us die to sin, crucify the flesh, be buried in baptism, and rise to walk a new life in Christ (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31; 20:21; Romans 5:6-11; 6:3-11).

Richard Hollerman

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