Does it really matter how your hair looks when you come to church?
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1 Corinthians 11 (ESV)
1 Be imitators
as I am of Christ.
2 Now I commend you because
you remember me in everything
and maintain the traditions
even as I delivered them to you.
3 But I want you to understand that
the head of every man is Christ,
the head of a wife is her husband,
and the head of Christ is God.
4 Every man
who prays or prophesies with his head covered
dishonors his head,
5 but every wife
who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered
dishonors her head,
since it is the same as if her head were shaven.
6 For if a wife
will not cover her head,
then she should cut her hair short.
But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head.
7 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.
10 That is why a wife
ought to have a symbol of authority on her head,
because of the angels.
in the Lord
woman is not independent of man
nor man of woman;
as woman was made from man,
so man is now born of woman.
And all things are from God.
13 Judge for yourselves:
is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered?
14 Does not nature itself teach you that
if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him,
15 but if a woman has long hair,
it is her glory?
For her hair is given to her for a covering.
16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious,
we have no such practice,
nor do the churches of God.
17 But in the following instructions
I do not commend you,
because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.
18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church,
I hear that there are divisions among you.
And I believe it in part,
19 for there must be factions among you
in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.
20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.
21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal.
One goes hungry,
another gets drunk.
22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?
Or do you despise the church of God
and humiliate those who have nothing?
What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you,
the Lord Jesus
on the night when he was betrayed
24 and when he had given thanks,
he broke it, and said,
“This is my body,
which is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
25 In the same way
also he took the cup, after supper,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
26 For as often
as you eat this bread
and drink the cup,
you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27 Whoever, therefore,
eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord
in an unworthy manner
will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.
28 Let a person
examine himself, then,
eat of the bread
and drink of the cup.
29 For anyone
who eats and drinks
without discerning the body
eats and drinks
judgment on himself.
30 That is why
many of you are weak and ill,
and some have died.
31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.
32 But when we are judged by the Lord,
we are disciplined
so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat,
wait for one another—
34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—
so that when you come together it will not be for judgment.
About the other things I will give directions when I come.
1 Corinthians 11 Summary
As we go on in Corinthians, we will encounter texts in which Paul prohibits women from having leadership roles in the church. Churches who wish to remain faithful to God's Word continue to abide by those guidelines even though they are immensely unpopular in our society.
Yet even conservative churches like ours don't require women to wear hats to church (v5) or frown upon men who have long hair (v14). Are we being inconsistent in our application of God's Word then?
We must remember the genre and context of each different book of the Bible. Remember that epistles like 1st Corinthians are letters that were written to churches in a particular place at a particular time. Most of what's written in these letters is useful and has application for all Christians in all times and places, but some of what's written is only applicable to the original recipients of the letter because it deals with cultural norms particular to their situation.
The difficult question to answer is when is Paul addressing just the first century Corinthians, and when is he speaking to all Christians?
One of the ways we answer that question is by looking at how the rest of the Bible addresses these topics. We find lots of support for the general principle of ordered submission like what is written in v3 & 11-12, but there really isn't much else in the Bible about hairstyles.
Certainly this is a complex passage that deserves more study, but by using the time honored approach in which we let the Bible interpret the Bible, we can conclude that the instructions for head coverings and hair lengths given here were for the Corinthians, not for the church in general. In our culture women don't need a hat for church, and men can let their hair grow as long as they want.
Conversely, the important instructions about how to properly partake in the Lord's Supper are universal and must be followed exactly as written.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: God, the Father of all, created mankind in His image, male & female (Genesis 1:27)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God for the invitation He gives you to the table, and pray that He guides your preparation for the next celebration on August 14.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: