Monday, February 22, 2010

1 Cor. 11: Lessons in Submission

Imagine the subtle weight of a hat upon your head. Imagine the awareness – something sits upon your head, causing you to move in a slower, more controlled fashion. As you glance up or to either side, you catch a hint of the hat in your periphery. Because I am doing this for only a few hours each Sunday, I experience heightened awareness of the presence of the hat every single time. I have not gotten used to it and the hats have not become a part of me the way other accessories have (like my wedding band). In essence, every Sunday I have been repeatedly distracted by the presence of a hat. At first, I really fought against this – aghast at my superficial concerns over my appearance. But then it occurred to me that my awareness was part of the point. I remembered the reasons of the head covering in 1 Corinthians 11. It states, “the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.” So I asked God, “What do You want to teach me through this and what do You want me to dwell on as I feel the presence of this hat on my head?”

It was then, that God began the real dialog with me. I could almost sense Him chuckle with a “You asked for it” response. For the last few months since, He has been drilling home the importance of submission to my husband as my head. Here is a smattering of some of the challenges and thoughts I have encountered:
  • Choosing silence, even when I know “I’m right” about something, thereby showing respect and elevating our marriage above my pride. (See Phil. 2:6-8)
  • Agreeing to decisions I am not 100% behind, thereby trusting God’s ability to lead and direct David in matters that affect me. (Gen 12:1, 12:5)
  • Keeping a tidier home as a way to honor David’s hard work and welcome him at the end of a long day. (Prov. 31:27)
  • Making an effort to present myself to David as the blushing bride of his youth to honor his commitment to love me and long-after only me among all women. (SS 7:10)
  • Looking for ways to intentionally encourage David in his leadership role.
  • Making sure I am serving him as his true ezer kneged, or “strong partner.” Therefore I should do all I can to empower David to fulfill God’s purposes for his life. (Gen 2:18)

These lessons have taken weeks to implant themselves in my brain. I find I still need the weekly reminder to realign myself with their truth, because none of them come naturally to me. (In fact, I typically fight against them with fervor!) I also find God continues to add to the list, week after week. It is possible all these components of submission will one day be second nature (by the Grace of God), but until then, I will wear my hats in hopes to help me remember who I am, whose I am and whom I serve.

Little did I know how much richness waited me in my obedience to this one passage of Scripture. In my final post, I will share about how helping the angels has resulted in helping myself.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Covering My Head: A Lesson in Obedience

“When God has spoken on an issue, our job is to trust and obey whether we like it or not.”1 Allow me to add to this statement: “When God has spoken on an issue, our job is to trust and obey whether we like it or not, and whether we can completely understand it or not.”

Historically, my approach to ALL rules – whether established by God or man, has been to follow them only AFTER I understood why the rule exists in the first place and only AFTER I then decided I liked the rule. If I don’t understand or like the reasons for the rule, I kick and scream better than the best three year olds I know. Once I do understand WHY (and agree), I am “obedient” without fail. However, through the past few months, this is what God has said to me:

That is Not Obedience. It just isn’t.

Ouch. I have come to believe, through this experiment of mine, that True, Hard-Core Obedience is taking the reading of God’s Word literally and immediately; and the time for questioning and analyzing comes AFTER obedience, not before. Every single lesson God has taught me, everything He has revealed about Himself and about me, every bit of transformation I have experienced during these past few months would never have happened if I had taken a different approach. If I had first determined whether or not this passage said what it appears to say or not or if I had tried to see how it was a historical/cultural (and therefore irrelevant) application, I would have completely missed out.

This has made me sadly wonder how often I have missed out in the past! It has also made me question why I have felt the need to go about things all wrong. My defiant arrogance has been my downfall. I have not wanted certain passages of scripture to apply to me and I have gone to great lengths to make sure they don’t.

I have read this passage before and thought, “God can’t possibly be so superficial as to care about whether our heads are covered or not!” – but through the act of surrendering to His Word, I have witnessed once again, how much God’s “suggestions” and God’s “laws” are not to be judged so quickly. He didn’t create His guidelines for fun, or to frustrate us, or as punishment, or so as to elevate some while degrading others. He also didn’t assemble the Scriptures with certain passages meant for 200 AD and others meant for 2010AD. ALL of it is “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:15) Every verse has value and can be applied today in some form. Our job is to respond with true obedience, listening to the Spirit and trusting God’s guidance. Sometimes that will mean doing things that don’t make sense to us at first, or doing something we don’t “agree” with or don’t like. But I feel confident that God will ALWAYS honor this level of obedience to his Holy Word.

Some will read 1 Corinthians 11 and surmise the lesson to be applied today is really about wives submitting to their husbands and husbands submitting to Christ and that wearing the head covering is really not the point. I can not agree or disagree with this application, because my decision has been based on personal conviction, and I reserve the right to realize God gives me permission to stop at any time, if He should choose to do so. However, in my next post I hope you will see how the very act of wearing a head covering has enhanced my understanding of submission to my husband in ways I never would have achieved had I not had the physical, symbolic reminder every seven days.

1. Brian Schwertley - see previous post, "What the Commentators Had to Say"

Saturday, February 13, 2010

1 Cor. 11: What the Commentators Had to Say

In the week following the initial conversation about 1 Corinthians 11, I had many conversations with a dear friend regarding her research into this topic. Her research led her to many commentaries on this subject, most (if not all) supported the notion that this passage has been utterly neglected in our modern, Western church for decades. One in particular(Brian Schwertley) had the following to say:

Although the use of head coverings in public worship is obviously not as important as the doctrines of the trinity, the two natures of Christ or justification by faith alone, nevertheless, it is important for a number of reasons. (1) It is required by Scripture and thus cannot be set aside like a bad recipe. When God has spoken on an issue, our job is to trust and obey whether we like it or not. (2) In our day when marriage and family life is at an all time low, any teaching and practice that supports the covenant headship of the man and the submission of the wife needs our utmost adherence. Head coverings represent what God teaches about marriage. Therefore, we should not mock or hate this biblical practice but embrace it wholeheartedly. (3) Culture at the present time in America is becoming increasingly pagan, hedonistic and anti-Christian. Any biblical practice that sets God’s people apart from our culture and sets an example for it ought to be embraced by believers. We certainly do not act as a salt and light to our heathen culture when we reject biblical imperatives relating to covenant headship but instead imitate the world. (4) A recurring problem for churches in the last one hundred years has been the intrusion of egalitarian and feminist principles into their beliefs and practices. An excellent way to stop such dangerous syncretism is to obey biblical teachings that feminists hate such as head coverings. The best defense is a good offense. May God enable us to return to the teaching of the apostles on this issue so that families will be strengthened and the angels properly instructed. (bold emphasis added)

This entire passage spoke to me, however, in the next three postings I will focus on the sections in bold, as they truly leapt from the page and smacked me right upside the head. Before I do so, below are the two
most common arguments I found against the literal application of this passage.

1. Interpreting the "head covering" to mean "long hair."
Recently some authors have maintained that when Paul says "her hair is given to her for a covering" he is saying that the hair suffices as a covering, and this interpretation has enjoyed some popular currency, but it cannot be the Apostle's meaning... It is simply taken for granted in verses 5 and 6 that such cropped hair would be disgraceful, and so everyone agrees that a woman's head should be covered. And if there is something especially suitable about a woman's head being covered, then she should be glad to wear a headcovering in addition to the long hair. But if she does not like a headcovering, well then, let her shear off her hair also! ... These verses make no sense otherwise. If by "uncovered" Paul means only a shorn head in the first place, as some would have it, then his argument in verses 5 and 6 amounts to the nonsensical "if a woman will not refrain from cutting off her hair, then let her cut off her hair also." by Michael Marlowe

2. Head coverings have no symbolic significance in our culture
In today's culture, we no longer view a woman's wearing of a head covering as a sign of submission. In most modern societies, scarves and hats are fashion accessories. A woman has the choice to wear a head covering if she views it as a sign of her submission to the authority of her husband. However, it is a personal choice and not something that should be used to judge spirituality. Source:
Instead, [Paul] explains that the headcovering practiced in the churches is emblematic of womanly submission; and he also indicates that this is a symbol which even the angels (who are not subject to changing fashions) take a real interest in. So the practice cannot be dismissed as being merely cultural. And when we consider that the bare-headed fashion of our times came into vogue at the same time that the "women's liberation" movement began, along with the wearing of pants and the cutting of hair, we ought to pause before we say that these things are really so devoid of symbolism in the culture at large...What if, after careful consideration of a biblical mandate, we remain uncertain as to its character as principle or custom? If we must decide to treat it one way or the other but have no conclusive means to make the decision, what can we do? Here the biblical principle of humility can be helpful. The issue is simple. Would it be better to treat a possible custom as a principle and be guilty of being overscrupulous in our design to obey God? Or would it be better to treat a possible principle as a custom and be guilty of being unscrupulous in demoting a transcendent requirement of God to the level of a mere human convention? I hope the answer is obvious." Unfortunately it seems that Sproul's hope is out of place in the easy-going churches of our day. We are quite willing to be guilty of being unscrupulous. We would rather dismiss the apostle's reproof as "cultually conditioned" and emulate the easy-going Corinthians, who represent the Christian liberty which is so precious to the modern church. But this only shows that we are creatures of a like culture. By Michael Marlowe

I would love to hear YOUR initial reactions to these commentaries! Add your comments below!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Covering In Church: An Introduction & Disclaimer

A couple of months ago my Bible study group had a tangent discussion about the passage from 1 Corinthians 11 (see previous post for complete text). We wondered together whether or not this was a passage to be taken literally or if the historical context really meant we needed to “translate” it more properly into something that could be applied today, in our culture. We left the discussion with more questions than answers and some of us were compelled to research the matter further on our own.

Thus began an interesting journey into what it means for me to follow and apply the Scriptures, what my obedience really needs to look like, and a host of other surprising lessons I found in “covering my head.” I initially determined on face value, there was nothing to suggest in this passage that it did NOT apply to me, today, in this culture. Therefore, before delving any further into any other research, I made a commitment to wear a head covering of some sort to Sunday worship service consistently until God made it clear to me this wasn’t necessary. (I wear one still.) In the next three postings, I am going to share about why I came to the conclusion that I needed to do this, what covering has been like, so far, and how God is using it to speak wonders into my life.

Let me say right off the bat the convictions and lessons I am learning are very personal. I am in NO WAY suggesting these are lessons everyone needs to learn or that they need to be learned in this exact manner. I have been nervous about even sharing my experience for fear my audience would either misinterpret my passion as argument for adopting my convictions or readers would feel the need to show me how my interpretation of this passage is theologically “off based” (in their opinion). I am not looking for a debate about what this passage “really” means. I confess I do not have the training in Biblical studies to successfully defend how God speaks to me through His Word. Part of the beauty in this practice has been realizing how much God uses His Word to speak directly into our personal lives in ways which are, well, personal.

Personal convictions remain powerfully effective until the person attempts to make them public. I cannot apply personal convictions as public convictions, perhaps cannot even discuss them, without creating the danger of legalism. Legalism is often the product of personal conviction applied publicly without explanation, or at a time when the reason and the passion behind the convictions have been forgotten. Unless everyone catches the same vision and the same passion about the same conviction, someone ends up bitterly following or forcefully rejecting. This is certainly not my goal here! Instead, I hope to provide encouragement for us all in our shared belief that God is working to accomplish His purposes in our lives. Even my casual acquaintances know that issues of gender equality, women in leadership, and headship and submission in marriage are very hot topics for me and therefore I trust will not take the lessons I have learned in these areas lightly, but see them as the tremendous work of the Holy Spirit in me that they truly are. I look forward to sharing these with you in the week to come!

Head Coverings Passage from 1 Corinthians 11

Following is the passage of Scripture I (Erin) will be referring to in the next couple of postings. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with this, taken from the NIV:

2I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.

3Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved. 6If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. 7A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.

11In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. 13Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

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