I am launching this new blog in order to have more opportunities to speak to current issues with my church family. Anyone can certainly read this blog, but I have started it with my church at heart. I simply want to expand my teaching platform to include the web and all my church members who use it. You can read more about my approach to blogging in my “About” page.
To get us started, I preached a very interesting passage this last Sunday from 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 about women’s head coverings. This is notoriously known as one of the most difficult passages to both understand and preach in the church today. My preparation was full of, shall we say, sweat and tears. Preaching on the topic of gender roles or gender distinctions always has the potential to cause controversy, especially in our culture today. Unfortunately, today’s culture of feminism and abolishing the distinctions between the sexes has infiltrated our churches and our homes. Many pastors and theologians have opted to adjust their theology to accommodate the culture and make Christianity more compatible with what unbelievers believe about gender. This, however, cannot be sustained in light of what Scripture clearly teaches. I for one will stand firmly on the Word of God to determine for me what I should believe about such things. We must avoid the dangerous practice of contorting God’s Word or flat out ignoring it in order to bend it to what we want to believe. A true follower of Christ submits to His Word. True rebellion seeks to find ways to submit to some while rejecting the rest. As Christians we must not do this.
Despite what our culture would have us believe, the Bible actually paints us a beautiful picture of how the sexes interact and complete one another in the Lord. 1 Cor 11:2-16 goes back to Genesis 1-2 to explain to us how truly essential our distinctions are between men and women. God said in Gen 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (ESV)” Both males and females complete the picture of what it means to be human. And since BOTH of them are clearly made in the image of God, this means that both maleness and femaleness communicate what God is like (image). So tease this out with me: if we intentionally try to lose or remove the distinctions between the genders (in both their assignments and their appearances) we end up distorting the image of God. 1 Cor 11:11-12 says, “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.” This seems to be the bedrock of what Paul was trying to say regarding head coverings while participating in the worship of God with their church. To be female, is to look like a female and to fulfill her role as a woman (which includes submission to her husband). To be male, is to look like a male and to fulfill his role as a man (which includes leadership in the home and in the church). When 1 Cor 11:7-9 says, “For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” this is not a demotion for women in the sense that they were created to be at the mercy of men for whatever men wanted. Nor does this say that women are not the image of God. What it means is that God created the first man out of the dust and so God “glories” in that creation as a unique expression of Himself. Then, God wanted to complete the picture for both His image and for Adam’s existence, so he took a rib out of Adam and created the first woman, name Eve. Adam now “glories” in woman as the perfect companion for him in life to express together what it means to be human and to commune with God. It’s like when an artist “glories” in a painting or sculpture he’s made. He takes pride in that work of art which unique expresses part of him. So God glories in man, and man glories in woman. So you can see how important it is to maintain the God-created distinctions for the sake of honoring God and honoring each other (especially during worship, which is the context of the passage).
My view, which is certainly up for debate and I don’t consider myself to be an expert, is that the cloth head coverings themselves were a cultural symbol of that day which was the norm for expressing feminine dress (specifically for those women who were married. Their head covering would be a marker of their marriage and their role as his submissive wife). Women show obedience to Christ by fulling her role as a woman and wife and by maintaining gender distinctions in all ways, including how she looks. Men show obedience to Christ by fulfilling their role as head and leader and by “Glorying” in his wife by loving her, respecting her, and serving her. We imitate Christ by honoring God which certainly includes honoring each other. So the head coverings themselves are culturally bound, but the principle behind it is not, and even nature and culture teaches us what it means to be a man and a women as we worship God together.