After talking with a few friends, let me be clear that this is NOT a matter of "becoming a Christian" and I am speaking here of an issue I only believe is applicable for consideration by those who already are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ! If this does not describe your view of your own relationship with God, please do not get caught up in my thoughts here or let anything I'm thinking about stand between you and Jesus!!!
I'm pondering these things only because I already love Jesus and want to express that on a deeper level than I have before. I totally believe this is a secondary issues behind the simple truth that God asks us to come to Him, simply believing that He is (if you aren't there, challenge Him to show you He exists and cares about your life), that I am imperfect and that He traded His perfect life in exchange for my pardon, but that He is powerful enough that even death couldn't hold Him, so I can totally trust that He will hold me, into Eternity, when I put my trust in Him.
In a different context, my pastor wrote some words, based on John 4:2 (Although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples.), that capture the "secondary issue" nature of what I'm trying to express here: "Human works, including baptism, doesn't save anyone. If it did, then Jesus really missed the boat because He failed to baptize a single soul. So the thing that anybody can do Jesus did not do and the thing nobody can do, Jesus did. He offered his life for mine. The perfect for the imperfect. The sinless for the sinner. The righteous for the unrighteous."
I'm sharing my thoughts here because I get asked about my personal convictions often enough that it will be helpful to me to have a central place to share my ideas. This is primarily a compilation of emails I have already shared with individual concerning this topic (slightly edited in structure to better fit with a blogging platform rather than email). The Scripture passage, written to the early church, that I'm pondering is:
But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God. - 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, NIV
You may or may not agree with anything I post here (or think I'm on the right tract in some areas but too legalistic or lax in others) and that is totally OK. In fact, if God has put a different view upon your heart, I would love you to leave a (kindly worded) comment to tell me about it. As long as you are sharing in a loving manner, I truly would like to learn what you think!
The explanation I was raised with is that tradition of women wearing head covering “was cultural” and I know NO one else locally who is following this conviction. It is probably the single area my mom and I are the least sinked, theologically, as we have very similar views on just about every other issue.
I do have one friend, locally, with similar beliefs, but her husband doesn’t share her views, so I have encouraged her that I feel she is being most God-honoring by respecting her husband’s conviction for her not to wear a hat. Nothing like saying, “I’m wearing this to show submission to my husband who does not think I should be wearing this!” In this case, I think it is the husband who is taking on the accountability before God for the choice he has made in leading his wife!
I had never really given this passage much thought or study of my own for well over 30 years of figuring the cultural argument took care of it, until one specific phrase jumped off the page at kept nagging at my heart, that the instruction for a woman to cover her head was given in part, “because of the angels.” Do I understand exactly what that means or how it works? I do not, but if there is a supernatural element here, I can no longer be content with the thought that this text was speaking to the fashion trends of the day.
God is eternal and unchanging. His angels, while created beings, like us, are seeing our obedience (or lack of) to the Lord to somehow help them better understand God’s character, His holiness. If simply putting something over my head to show God’s authority over my husband, then my husband’s authority over me, somehow brings glory and honor to God, who am I to balk at this minor request?
Fashion wise, it is no longer (since about the 60s) the norm in our culture. This is where things get a little tricky. I have heard the argument that a head covering should NOT be “trendy” but should be easily identifiable as set apart from culture, so a cute hat or head band or whatever, that blends into society norms, doesn’t cut it. I have also read that the Greek word used here indicates a “hanging down veil” that totally covers one’s hair (there is another school of thought that God’s coverings always come in pairs, but that the first covering is totally enclosed within the second, thus a woman’s hair, her glory, is to be fully concealed beneath a veil or the very point of covering at all is nullified).
It may be that with further prayer and study God refines my views here, but at this point, I think the second argument (hanging down veil) actually nullifies the first (should not fit into daily culture) because a “hanging down veil” exactly WAS the cultural norm of the day Paul was writing. He did not instruct that some odd custom was to be instated that would instantly set a woman apart by one glance (I think here of how distinctly a Muslim woman stands out in today’s culture) but he used a word that simply indicated the acceptable head covering of that day.
Realizing it is more paraphrase that strict translation, I like how the Contemporary English Version puts it simply, “a woman ought to wear something on her head.” [Speaking of paraphrases, I usually enjoy the fresh perspective The Message offers to enhance my understanding of any given passage of Scripture, but I'm afraid that their translation of this particular passage badly muddies the waters and strays terribly far from the original intent of language selected.]
I personally feel that what that “something” is gets into legalism where the point here, in my mind, is simply some outward symbol of obedience and submission. To me there is little difference between Jesus’s instructions for believers to practice communion (a topic Paul reiterates later in this very chapter) or baptism and Paul’s instruction concerning head cover (men should not, women should, for prayer and prophesy).
Paul ever foresaw this cultural conflict when he asked us to do this, telling us not to argue the point because there is “no other practice” for the church. To me, that’s pretty clear cut, this is what God commands and He doesn’t give room for other options.
I think if you believe the Lord is convicting you to cover your head, that is what you must do! I don't think He convicts us of all of the same things at the same times, though, so I think if He has not personally convicted you out of your intimate relationship with Him, you do not need to. The OT is full of laws that God knew we wouldn't be able to keep, thus pointing us to our need for a Savior. Jesus's death on the cross gives us grace so that we are free from the law. However, if we are in relationship with Him and He asks us to do something, we need to obey. Grace is not an excuse to keep on sinning, but grace covers all sin! Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more (Romans 5:20).
Imagine if the day you become a Christian you are expected to follow all of the commandments right away and if you don't you're not a "good" Christian. We are none of us good enough Christians! Our standard is Christ and not each other. The harder we try out of our own power to be good Christians, the harder it is. Only through Christ are we able to do anything.
I think we can learn so much from each other, though. God does speak through other believers, so perhaps someone reading this thread is about to be personally convicted to cover their head.
To me it is such a strong and very clear mandate, and yet, I know I am in the minority within my Christian circles. Does that mean all my friends are in sin if I am right then? That is really between them and God. If so, I was in sin in this area for more than 30 years before God started working the slightest conviction in my heart on this issue!
Bottom line, we all sin, in countless ways, every single day. That I feel convicted that God is asking me to cover my head in no way makes me any “more spiritual” than the next woman. It simply means that in this one area, I would be in outright rebellion to what God has convicted me if I did not obey what I believe He has called me to. To think otherwise leads me into more sin of pride, judgment, and self glorification! Since the whole point is to bring God glory in the first place, how very sad! :(
God died for us all. We are all under way more grace than we could ever earn! God gives very few instructions to believers (baptism, communion, and I believe how we treat our heads to reflect His order of authority), but not keeping these instructions doesn’t nullify His grace nor the validity of salvation. Not by works...
Practically speaking, there are times when it is a hassle (socially, physically, or emotionally) to cover. That’s when I have to remind myself that it is a heart issue, spirituality, we are dealing with here. Is my heart in a posture of submission that I am then willing to humbly reflect (even when I’m the only one) with my head? Over time, I am becoming more comfortable with this practice. I’ve found some really cute (and culturally appropriate) hats, head bands, large flower clips I can put on my head, etc. But, at least for me, I think that was part of what God has been working on in my heart, doing what He asked even when I feel terribly alone and conspicuous, simply because I am striving to be obedient.
When I first started to cover I did a lot of scarves (I could wear around my neck until church service started, then quietly slip up over my head), and while I still do this occasionally, I have gradually found what works better for me.
For a while I tried to keep something on my head at all times, sometimes even just reaching my hand up over my head when we prayed each morning. Then I came to peace with the fact that in our society, living under someone’s roof is a sign of being under their authority, so I figured that as long as I am physically under my husband’s roof, I am already symbolically covered and can pray without ceasing within these walls without needing to do anything extra to prepare my heart before God.
When I step out my door, out from under his symbolic covering, I am getting in the habit of trying to always wear a hat or head band or at least have a scarf around my neck, that I can quickly pull up over my head, for moments of prayer, for teaching, for sudden or unexpected witnessing opportunities (this is why it is easier to pretty much wear the hat or headband because I don’t want my culturally odd practice to be a stumbling block to others), etc.
I still take special time to prepare my head with some kind of covering if I know I am headed to church or public speaking in the name of Christ or something like that, but it really takes very little to strive to be prepared in season and out.
Most Christian I speak with believe that long hair is a woman's covering, but in studying the passage I just don't believe that is the case, was already coming to this conviction even before my hair had to be cut for medical reasons. Interestingly, when it was medicinally chopped off I did feel quite "shorn" and shameful over the fact, unlike any time I have chosen short hair cuts in the past, but much as many women speak of feeling about their lack of choice over their bald heads from chemotherapy. As several local friends can attest, this is when my passion for head covering really grew, to cover my own sudden loss of what I had thought of as my covering.
I am told that when my pastor came to pray with me in ICU (even prior to my hair cut), I grabbed a tissue and put it on my head. This idea makes me smile because at a time when I had little awareness, God honored my desire to honor Him with my head and heart. :) Again, I really think it is simply an outward reflection of an inward commitment, sort of like a wedding ring doesn’t make you married, just is a symbol showing that you are.
ETA: I found this article long after I had already shared my thoughts, but it offered some additional perspective, such as why head covering may only be demanded of married: http://www.lightofmashiach.org/women/headcovering.html
I'm not in agreement and believe my daughter should cover her head even under her father's authority, but it was an interesting perspective to read and I did appreciate many of the points presented.
On a somewhat related note (heart attitudes in how we present our bodies), I found Why We Dress Our Best for Church, to be a well-thought-out article as well.
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God. - 1 Corinthians 11: 3-16, AKJV