Saturday 16 January, 2021

1 Corinthians 11:2-6

2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. 3 But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man,[a] and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 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.

All cultures have signals that say things even if we don’t intend to. A first century Roman high priest would cover his head. The emperor Augustus was portrayed this way to show his unique status as “Pontifex Maximus”, closer to the gods than any mortal. A man covering his head in church, like the emperor, would also be saying he was closer to God and had higher status than anyone else. Except Jesus is our “high priest” (Hebrews 2:17), and he raises all his people to the highest status as God’s children.

Traditionally Roman wives covered their heads as a sign that they were married. But in the first century, there was a fashion for Roman wives to discard their head covering to advertise they were just as free as their husbands to have extra-marital affairs. This would shame their husbands. (Shaving a woman’s head was the punishment for adultery.)

The covered men or uncovered women may not have intended to give those signals. They may just have been following fashion to fit into their culture that revolved around status, honour and shame. But outsiders would undoubtedly have picked up the inappropriate messages.

We have different social signals (hats won’t be handed out at church on Sunday). But we need to be as careful in the messages we give, perhaps unconsciously, in what we wear or how we act or speak. It’s no less important for us to not diminish or dishonour anyone. We need to be especially careful not to dishonour God. This may mean standing out and being counter-cultural.

Jesus, please give us sensitivity and wisdom to know where we should be gracious and fit in with people and where we should stand out with a different message. Give us your heart to lift people up, and especially to honour you in how we act and speak.

Written by David Cornell

[comments section is closed]