Ancient History 303 C: Pros & Cons Versus Obedience
continued from yesterday…
Our pastor approached the subject of head-coverings by talking about the competitive spirit that fueled some of the hat-wearing of bygone years. He referred to large, flowery hats that drew attention to the wearers and even blocked the view of those sitting in the pews behind. Pride is a sin, so we shouldn’t get into this. No, hats in church hadn’t proved a good idea.
Then he went back to the situation at Corinth in those years when the church was spreading. This scripture clearly refers to the idol-temple prostitutes of that time shaving their heads to denote their occupation. Christian women of that era were warned not to copy that image. But this isn’t an issue in our times.
Yet the principle of submission was still valid, he told us. These verses were all about how Christian women of that era showed submission to their husbands; since this illustration no longer applies, Christian women today need to find practical modern ways of respecting their men.
(He didn’t mention that his own grandmothers in Canada circa 1940 still believed that women should cover their heads during prayer. Neither did he suggest the rest of I Corinthians 11 was only for that culture, too, so we can now ignore the teaching about preparing for communion.)
A lot of the folks in that group had some foreknowledge of this issue, had heard all the whys & wherefores hashed over before, whereas it was very new to me and I was trying to wrap my mind around why something was valid from Corinth ± AD 50 to Saskatchewan ± AD 1960 but not after. Though his argument made sense in a way, something still didn’t feel right. Guess I’m too legalistic; something inside me wouldn’t be at peace until I could get a more definite “you don’t have to.” I needed to get clearance from God somehow. I did a LOT of knocking, seeking, asking.
I was wondering what Bob’s reaction would be after that message. Of course he knew about the Bible Study and where I was coming from, but he hadn’t made much comment heretofore. He was pretty much letting me find my own way through this. But after church he said, “I think you hit a nerve.”
“You know the image of Mennonite he wants to project to the folks around here. If one of the young women in his congregation would start wearing a head covering – and talking about it – it would mess up the picture he wants to portray.”
As I remember, that’s the only comment Bob offered on the subject. He was generally supportive in all of this, but he let me take my own walk to Calvary.
The Lord offered a comment, too, in His own gentle way. “You don’t have to understand all my ways; you just have to obey.” I rehearsed all the reasons why it was silly, but nothing budged Him. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was using my human reasoning to comprehend God’s ways and that will never work.
“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Romans 8:7
Finally I conceded the point; I went out and bought myself a sheer black scarf and started wearing it as a head-covering. And my perspective shifted somehow when I gave in: what hadn’t made any sense before suddenly seemed to now. I could “see” all the arguments against before, but now I could “see” the arguments in favour. Obedience was starting to make sense.
Above all, I felt at peace. It seemed right. Something inside me was growing – I might have defined it as a willingness to be led by God and/or to stand on the convictions He gave me. But something was definitely taking shape.
I didn’t realize that the next round would be the hardest yet – the proverbial “last straw”.
A Few Thoughts In Retrospect:
The Bible talks of a woman “having power on her head.” (Louis Segond version states it clearly: “A woman should have on her head a symbol of the authority on which she depends.” I’ve observed through the years that there really is power in this outward symbol: a woman who’s decently dressed and wearing a head-covering just does get a lot more respect from men. (I.e., a covering worn consistently, not just a “because my church says I have to” minimum compliance.)
It works better than a wedding ring for deflecting undesired come-ons. But a head-covering is part of a package deal; if dress and conduct aren’t in accord, you’re sending major mixed signals.
I believe this path is one that each woman must find her own way through. I’ve heard of churches that will actually hand women head-coverings when they enter the sanctuary. As Jesus tried to tell the Pharisees, an outward symbol with no inward willingness or submission isn’t of much value in God’s eyes.
I feel a woman needs to have it settled in her own heart what God wants of her. We must be faithful to the light God gives us, but examine our own hearts to be sure there’s no unwillingness deflecting the Spirit’s guidance.
A head-covering isn’t all about married women and their husbands, either; it’s rather a sign of a woman’s submission to God’s order of man taking the lead in spiritual things. (Other scriptures like I Timothy 2:12 support this.) However, I have known women who feel they should wear a covering but their husbands say, “Forget it!” So they give it up because it seems ironic for them to wear a head-covering – to show their submission – in defiance of their husband’s wishes. God is mercy and compassion; He will bless a willing heart, regardless.