Watching any of the good old westerns, you’d no doubt see the hero (and sometimes the villains) take off their hat when entering a building– or at least in the presence of a lady. Today we have trouble having our children and adults ever taking off their hat, even for the national anthem or prayer (though the national anthem usually gets more respect).
In I Corinthians 11 we have an interesting passage of Scripture. In this passage, Paul is talking to the Corinthian believers about what head gear, if any, they should have when prophesying, preaching, or praying.
Some look at verse 2 and claim that it’s an ordinance that Paul is sharing, and give the following commands about head gear the same weight as Communion and Baptism. I think the plain reading of the passage does not give clear weight to that, since Paul states, “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” The following “but” seems to say “Yes guys, you’re doing a good job keeping up with the ordinances, but there’s something I have to tell you…”
Now the next set of instruction is pretty clear– God lays out the order of leadership starting with himself down. Christ is the Head, then the man, then the woman (presumably children follow). Then we start to get into the head covering discussion. Let’s see if we can figure out first what Paul is stating:
- If a man has his head covered while he prophesies or prays dishonors his head.
- If a woman does not have her head covered while prophesying or praying, it dishonors her head.
Paul then goes on to defend his reasoning: Man being created in the image of God is the glory of God, whereas woman being created from man is the glory of man. Paul goes on to say that the two are one in the Lord, which may be reference to what happens in marriage. This is Paul’s appeal to the creation order.
Paul then makes a second appeal– to nature: He talks about the fact that long hair on men it is a shame and long hair on women is a glory. Some take this to say that women should have long hair (a topic for another time maybe). In context, to me, it looks like he’s justifying his comment about coverings by saying that the fact that there are differences in hair lengths indicating man and woman, so should there be a difference in head coverings. That the glory of the man is that the woman covers her glory (her long hair) to show respect/honor to her husband.
I’ve went to a church while at college, that had any woman involved in ministering to the congregation wear a hat– on the platform, in the choir, etc.– though the congregation was not forced to do it. I have also noticed in a few churches that I have been in that the women are not usually the first to offer to lead in prayer. Could it be because they are more keenly aware of the Holy Spirit and would feel more liberty with their head covered?
Some feel it is necessary to cover their heads all the time. Some only while in church. This passage definitely seems to teach about prophesying / praying, not about at all times.
Now, most churches I’m a part of say that this was a cultural thing. I could get that if Paul just appealed to nature. See, the same people that say it’s cultural agree with the pattern of headship laid out here “because we were created in that order.” However, the head covering seems to be intermixed within the passage.
I’m not opposed to saying it’s cultural– but if it isn’t, is the fact that it’s inconvenient excuse the obligation? Should a leader in a church call on a women to pray or prophesy if she’s uncovered? If you take this passage literally, then he shouldn’t.