1 Corinthians 11:1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that [a]Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of [b]Christ. 4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. 5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman [c]whose head is shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover [d]her head, let her also [e]have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to [f]have her hair cut off or [g]her head shaved, let her cover [h]her head. 7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8 For man [i]does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.
10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman [j]independent of man, nor is man [k]independent of woman. 12 For as the woman [l]originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things [m]originate from God. 13 Judge [n]for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no [o]other practice, nor have the churches of God.
The key points of this passage are:
- Paul urges the Corinthians to act as he does as he imitates Christ.
- There is a hierarchy of authority: God > Christ > man > woman
- Men who prophesy or pray with their head covered are disgraced, but women who prophesy or pray without their head covered are disgraced (and it is if as their heads are shaved).
- The reason for this is not just from an authority perspective, but also a creation order perspective.
- The symbol of [being under] authority is because of the angels (as an angel is assigned to each Church to watch over it: Revelations 2-3)
- Repeating that it’s a disgrace for covering a man’s head, and disgrace for an uncovered woman’s head. Long hair is a glory to a woman, much like a head covering.
- Tells us that this is a practice of the Churches of God. It is not solely to the Corinthian Church and thus the culture of the Corinthian Church but of all of God’s Churches. It’s universal.
There’s a lot of commentary on this passage and a lot of debate. There is some cultural context to this in terms of prostitution and not covering the head.
The argument from creation order on head coverings is similar to women not being able to teach or have authority over men in 1 Timothy 2. Conveniently, this is also one of the “culturally relevant” passages that many “liberal” Churches like to explain away.
It is universally “disgraceful” for women to have short hair. This is no coincidence. While outward appearances may be disgraceful, outward appearance is not everything. In fact, 1 Peter 3 states beauty in wives is not merely outward but inward. To win unbelieving husbands a wife should have chaste and respectful behavior, a gentle and quiet spirit, and submit to her husband. Such methods and actions outwardly show her respect and submission. It makes sense then that head coverings are likewise an outward expression of a symbol of [being under] authority as chaste and respectful behavior, a gentle and quiet spirit, and submissiveness is to an unbelieving husband.
Indeed, the symbol of being under authority is to her own husband and God. It is a form of outwardly honoring the principles of godly living in Christ Jesus. Not only that, but because of the angels [of each church] as they are also under the authority of God and are commissioned by God to judge our obedience. For example,
Revelation 3:14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the [k]Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 15 ‘I know your deeds, thalmostat you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will [l]spit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Are the Scriptures only culturally relevant or is it timeless Truth?
If they’re only “culturally relevant” then what’s the point? We can just pick and choose what we want to obey in the Bible. Picking and choosing what you want to obey is the modicum of almost everyone who calls themselves Christians in the Western hemisphere. Oh, don’t want to go to Church? I guess I’ll only go when I feel like it. Oh, don’t want to obey my husband? Guess I won’t. Oh, I want a divorce but the Bible says not to… well, there were irreconcilable differences so God wants me to leave.
Indeed, the Scripture itself in v16 speaks that this is not “culturally relevant” [to the Corinthians] but a practice of all of the Churches of God in all of the various cultures that they were in from: Judea, to Africa, to Asia Minor, to Greece, to Italy and everywhere a Church was planted by the Apostles. The practice of head coverings to show proper submission to authority was and is still universal for the Church.
The simple truth about the matter is that head coverings were practiced in every Church, even in the West, until perhaps 70-100ish years ago. As the Church became much more infected by the culture, this practice has become non-PC, odd, weird, and whatever “negative” attribute you want to call it. Hence, it has stopped being practice in most Churches. However, this is not a reason not to follow the commands of Scripture. Following the commands of Scripture are often difficult, uncomfortable, and un-PC. Women being outwardly submissive to authority? Definitely un-PC.
Is it no surprise that in our individualistic and rebellious culture that we have gotten rid of symbols of submission to authority?
In any case, I discussed this previously with my girl a year or so ago, and I have recently discussed it with her again. Apparently, she didn’t remember that we discussed it. She doesn’t like it (at least at first), but will do it if I ask her to. I let her know that it will be something that I require in marriage, not because I am asking her to but as Christians we want to be in alignment with God’s Word. It is also clear that head coverings as an outward symbol of [being under] authority can be an excellent witnessing tool for believers to lukewarm Christians, especially in our individualistic and rebellious culture.
The thing about being obedient is that we don’t have to like it at first. It’s great if we do, but much of the time when we are tasked with being obedient to God we don’t like it at first. But we have faith and trust God that as we are obedient to His commands that He will be gracious to us and help us cultivate the right attitude and heart.