Of Hats & Hair
1 Corinthians 11:1-16
On the heels of a lengthy discussion regarding Christian liberty Paul delves into the application of freedom in Christ within the church assembly. Over the next four chapters Paul addresses three areas where the Corinthians had demonstrated unruliness and selfishness as a body: gender roles in 11:1-16, the Lord’s Table (often referred to as Communion today) in 11:17-34, and spiritual gifts in chapters 12-14.
It’s easy to get caught up in the cultural details of this passage: Why were women to cover their heads and not men? Are women only allowed long hair and men only allowed short hair? Why does Paul mention head shaving? Is Paul anti-women?
While these questions might create interesting discussion (or heated debate), the more worthwhile approach is to extrapolate the primary biblical principle Paul wishes to communicate. We’ve learned that the Corinthians pursuit of self-interest had resulted in an unwillingness to elevate the needs of others for the glory of God. They focused on exercising freedom to do things their own way instead of obeying Christ by serving others. One way this spilled out within the church body was a confusion over gender roles.
By appealing to order, creation, and even angels, Paul reminds the Corinthians that the disharmony in their gathering was a misplacement of their freedom. Men and women together, in mutual interdependence, complementing each other, bring glory to God. Neither gender should be independent of the other or think themselves superior. The subordination Paul presents is not inferiority, but a healthy recognition of the orderly roles God created.
When it comes to Christian liberty, what’s the wise thing to do for the good of others and for the glory of God?
- How have discussions on gender changed in recent years? Have biblical descriptions of gender roles been redefined or lost as a result? If so, how?
- How should appropriate relationships between men and women be expressed in the church today?