Follow-up thoughts on head coverings…

I feel blessed to have a pastor who occasionally visits my blog! Mike recently read my post on head coverings and I Corinthians 11. I thought he had really good feedback and caused me to think about some new aspects of the issue. For example, I now feel more comfortable viewing my long hair as a covering and may choose to wrap my hair up on my head if I don’t feel like wearing my scarf (although I love my scarf – lovely light blue embroidered silk from Vietnam). I definitely agree that the focus is on a woman developing a submissive spirit and the demeanor of servanthood.

Here is some of what he had to say:

I am so grateful that it is your heart’s desire to submit yourself to all that the Lord has in His Word…. that being said the idea of the head covering has been read in a few different ways (you may know the discussion).  The covering of the head and the length of the hair seems to me to have been invariably tied together as referenced by the “cutting off of the hair” comments for a woman who prays or prophesies without a covering.  V. 15 goes so far as to say that the long hair is given the woman “as a covering.”

Therefore, my best reading of the text is that the “covering of the head” was a reference to the way in which the hair would be wrapped back over the top of the head as a certain kind of covering.  A couple of examples of this kind of impropriety that was perceived to accompany a “nonsubmissive woman” might be the woman in Numbers 5:18 who has her hair “loosened” as part of the test of her fidelity to her husband as well as what was culturally perceived to be the scandalous activity of the “woman with a sinful past” in Luke 7 who “let down her hair” and wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair and tears.

I think the point for me is that there is a universal principle of a submissive spirit that is a beautiful thing for women in light of God’s economy of servanthood, being highly cherished in a community where sin is truly put off and greatness reserved for those who love and cherish servanthood and submission.  That being said, in our world these days, … there are very few, if any, cultural markers that actually work to indicate this sort of beauty.  In our day, the broader culture just doesn’t understand the value of submission from a Kingdom perspective.  In  a word, wearing the hair in a certain way does nothing more than communicate “hairstyle,” unlike the 1st century world.  It seems to me the very closest equivalent to a “submissive spirit” for our day must be primarily demeanor-driven.  I wish it were more concrete than that; however, I find the pluralistic world in which we live and the confluence of the multiple symbols and icons that convey multiple meanings to us in our day make it very difficult for us to ask women of Christ to: 1) wear their hair in a certain way or 2) if one concludes this to be some sort of covering (which I don’t), to wear a covering as a mark of obedience to the text of 1Cor. 11.

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Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 5

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:8-12)

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Our parents were the first ones to love us, the first ones to teach us about Jesus, and the first ones to teach us about what it means to worship God. They kept the Ten Commandments while we were watching them with a child’s eyes.

Yet before our parents loved us, God loved us. The fourth commandment reminds us of this, and also that we must love our parents and obey our parents as we love and obey God. We can understand all notions of fatherhood and parenthood from what God tells us about his Father in heaven.

It is important to see the relationship between the commandment to obey the Sabbath and the commandment to honor our father and mother. “Even as the third commandment tells us that we must live in time as a gift, rather than as an arena of our achievements and assertions, so the fourth commandment commands us to live as those who know their very being is a gift. Our lives are not self-derived. The self-made man or woman is a lie.” (Hauerwas & Willimon, page 69)

Here are thoughts from the women of Grace Chapel on what it means to honor our parents: show them respect, be dutiful in taking care of them, respect them and love them even if you don’t agree with them, obey them always as long as it doesn’t go against the word of God, submit to them as an act of humility, pray for the will of God to be active in their lives, remember their authority over you, love them because they are the parents God gave you.

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For Week 6, please read Chapter 5 on the Fifth Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. Why did God give us this commandment?
  2. How does anger fit into this commandment?
  3. Is this a simple commandment? Why or why not?
  4. How can you be guilty of breaking this commandment without killing a person?
  5. What is the key to keeping this commandment?
  6. Does this commandment relate to suicide? War?

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 4

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work – you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. (Exodus 20:8-11)

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Sabbath is God’s gift to humanity. With the sabbath, God has given us back time because time is not our own. God intends for us to have consecrated time to remember who God is and to remember who we are – part of His creation…part of His original work. On this day we are called to remember, recall, recollect.

Sabbath is tied to Creation. God rested from His work of creation on the seventh day to designate the work as good, and to recognize the goal of perfect rest – reflection, perfection, recognition of God’s intention for life. “The third commandment is a reminder that we have been created for no higher purpose than the worship of God.” (Hauerwas and Willimon, page 58)

Observing the sabbath faithfully is a witness to the world. How we choose to observe the sabbath will set us apart from a world that strives for more work by showing that life must contain a balance of work and rest, and this balance is the gift of a gracious Creator. How we choose to observe the sabbath will teach our children about self-discipline and what it looks like to use our time intentionally to worship God faithfully.

Here are thoughts from the women of Grace Chapel on how to spend the Sabbath day: church, reading the Bible with family, prayer, silence, spiritual conversation and fellowship, meals together, relax, spend time with loved ones, taking a walk and admiring nature, worship, reflection, serving others, volunteering in the church service, Bible study…add your own ideas to the list!

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For Week 5, please read Chapter 4 on the Fourth Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. Why did God give us this commandment? What is the need?
  2. What does it mean to “honor”?
  3. What qualities does good parenting require?
  4. What are the benefits of following this commandment?
  5. What does it cost to follow this commandment?
  6. Does this commandment have any limitations? If so, what?

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 3

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. (Exodus 20:7)

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God gave us the gift of His name. This name gives God a tangible identity – He is no longer a mystery, but a God with an identity. This God seeks a personal relationship with His creation and we can no longer make “God” mean whatever we want. The name of God shares His character, nature, power, passion, and authority. Knowing God’s name allows us to honor, worship, and glorify Him in the most appropriate way. This is an incredible and awe-inspiring gift.

Through the second commandment, God is saying that we cannot make Him part of our lies. We can no longer avoid the truth to save our own skin, we can no longer allow our prayers to be insincere, and we can no longer seek to flatter our Christian brothers and sisters because it is easier than discipling them. Christians must not only live truthfully but we must also speak truthfully.

Pride, fear, confusion, selfishness, habit, anger, ignorance — all of these very human qualities cause us to break this commandment. The challenge of keeping this commandment is that we must go against our very nature. We must learn simplicity of speech and integrity of relationship. Not taking the Lord’s name in vain means that we are committed to speaking truthfully to God, to ourselves, and to one another.  (Hauerwas and Willimon, p 46)

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For Week 4, please read Chapter 3 on the Third Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. What is the purpose of the Sabbath day?
  2. How is the Sabbath tied to Creation?
  3. Why is rest so important to God?
  4. What work can’t be avoided on a Sunday?
  5. What activities should we participate in on Sunday?
  6. How is obeying the third commandment a witness to the world?

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 2

You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am  jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.  (Exodus 20:3-6)

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God loved us enough to speak to us. He loved us enough to not only tell us His name, but also to own us, call us into relationship with Him, tell us how to worship Him, and hold us accountable. We understand the God of Israel by understanding His commandments, and to understand the commandments “perfectly” is to understand that they cannot be read in isolation from one another.

Through the first commandment, God is saying that He desires our complete and utter devotion. By placing God on the throne of our lives, we open ourselves up to the movement of the Holy Spirit and enable the kind of relationship and communication that God desires with us. We realize that we are not attempting to get something out of God but we are instead “bending our lives toward God.” (Hauerwas and Willimon, p 34)

Our God reacts intensely to those who disobey this commandment. He is jealous because He is sovereign. He has a particular and passionate desire for relationship with us and expects our very particular and passionate worship of Him in return.

Note that this is a commandment with consequences, both good and bad. By following this commandment, we are promised God’s steadfast love to the thousandth generation! By failing to follow this commandment, our iniquity will result in our children being punished to the third and fourth generation.

What are the “costs” of following this commandment? In the western world, the costs are often social — we may not look or sound like those around us. Our behavior may result in our isolation from others who do not know Christ. In other parts of the world, the cost may be death. What are the costs of not following this commandment? Sin itself is the punishment.

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For Week 3, please read Chapter 2 on the Second Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. Why did God give us His name?
  2. Why is knowing God’s name such a great gift to us?
  3. How do we rightly or wrongly use God’s name?
  4. What causes us to break this commandment?
  5. How are we hurt by abusing God’s name?
  6. What are the public consequences of keeping this commandment?
  7. How would you explain this commandment to a child?