Head Covered/Uncovered? Why Is Paul So Upset?

Pastor's Ponderings IllustrationBible Readings for the day: Psalm 98:1-9, 1 Corinthians 11:2-34, 2 Chronicles 7:11-9:31
Meditational Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:3-10
3  But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
4  Every man who prays or who prophesies with his head covered, dishonors his head.
5  But every woman who prays or who prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her own head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.
6  For if a woman is not covered, let her also have her hair cut. But if it is a shameful thing for a woman to have her hair cut, or to be shaved, let her be covered.
7  For a man indeed 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 is not from woman, but woman from man.
9  Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.
10  Because of this, the woman ought to have a symbol of authority upon her head, because of the angels.

People often become upset when they read this section of Paul.  The idea of male headship turns many people off.  I’m not going to argue the difference between (what we theologically call) the “order of creation” and the “order of redemption.”  Paul gets to a much deeper problem in this passage.  Why would men pray with a head covering?  Why would women pray with their head uncovered?  Why does Paul tell them not to do either?  Why is Paul so upset?

+Men praying with their heads covered:  It is the Jewish practice for men to pray with their heads covered.  Even today an observant Jew will pray with the yamulke.  It is a sign of being under the authority of God.  Paul tells the predominantly gentile Christians in Corinth not to carry out this practice.  The gentile Christians are not Jews.  They should not pretend to be Jews.  Paul says that any man who prophesies with his “head” covered dishonors his “head.”  The head he dishonors is Jesus (as we see in verse 3).  When a gentile believing man prays with his head covered, he gives the mistaken message that he does not believe in the full and free forgiveness Jesus won for us on the cross.  A covered head shows that the man “is ashamed before God, and unworthy to see him with an uncovered face.”  Because of Jesus and the forgiveness he won for us on the cross we can, and do, approach God.  Praying with a covered head denies this truth.

+Women praying with their heads uncovered:  Fifty years ago women regularly wore hats to church.  If you asked them why, they probably couldn’t tell you other than it’s “tradition.”  That tradition arose from Paul’s writing in the meditational reading.  Back in Paul’s day, prostitutes were forbidden by (Roman and Jewish!) law from wearing veils and head coverings.  Some women believers believed that the social norms no longer applied to them.  They took their Christian freedom seriously; their Christian freedom included appearing in public, appearing in worship, participating in worship with their heads uncovered.  This gave people (believers and unbelievers alike) the false impression that these Christian women were prostitutes.  Paul’s point is that they brought dishonor and disrepute upon their husbands and upon their Lord and Savior (as well).

Why is Paul upset?  Because these practices brought dishonor upon Jesus!  And that confronts us with the fact that societal norms have changed (how many hats do you see in worship today?); but there are still things we can do that will bring dishonor upon Jesus and hold him up to ridicule in an unbelieving world?  What are those things?  I’m not going to make a list a things that I deem dishonorable.  Instead, I look into my heart and see the sin that lives there.  I realize that I can and do bring dishonor upon Jesus in the things I do, many of those things now “accepted” by the predominant culture.

It’s so easy for me to see the things other people are doing.  Instead I should look at myself and see the things I do.  I see my sin; I confess my sin; I am forgiven for the sake of Jesus my Savior!  Do I go out and continue to sin?  In reality, I do — but I’m not supposed to!  Daily I turn to Jesus and receive his total and free forgiveness.  My great prayer is that I do not bring dishonor upon Jesus and his work in the world.

A prayer:  Lord, it’s easy for me to see the sin around me.  I don’t like seeing the sin in my life.  But it is there.  I am the sinner for whom you died!  Thank you for dying and rising for me, forgiving me my many sins.  May I live for you so that I do not bring dishonor upon you.  This I ask in your Name.  Amen!

Should you wish to access Pastor Kerner’s sermon archive, you can do so at https://gslcsuffield.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/sermon-archive-2010-2011/

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 585 South St. (Route 75), Suffield CT 06078 USA  http://www.gslcsuffield.com  Should you wish to support this ministry, you can mail a check to the church.

If you liked this post in any way, please think about sharing it on your social media sites.  This is an effective way to evangelize on the internet.  You can also friend me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/james.kerner

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