1 Corinthians 11
Having grown up in a high Anglican church, the women there wore hats. That came in very handy when you sat behind one and didn’t want to be spotted by the minister. At our local church building, there was an area at the entrance where men would leave their hats. So, I can relate to the ‘hats on, hats off’ language of our passage. I wonder if you can?
How would the ladies react if you were obliged to cover your head? How would the men react if instructed to not cover your head at all?
Culture is a big thing in 1 Corinthians 11. Covering your head meant something, communicated something. Thankfully this ‘covering/not covering’ stuff doesn’t apply to us today. Wearing or not wearing a hat is a disputable matter today.
But there is an indisputable matter in verse 3.‘The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God’, writes Paul, who also instructs that ‘everything be done to the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31-33) and to ‘follow my example as I follow the example of Christ’ (verse 1).
But it gives rise to the question: “what does the word ‘head’ mean?” It’s worth reflecting on this.
Is it a reference to authority – at least within a man/woman relationship? Did it have the sense then, at that time? We don’t know for sure! Or can it mean the source? There clearly is a link between a man and a woman. The man being the source as in verse 8 (reference to the Genesis 2 Creation account).
But then look at the end of verse 3: ‘and the head of Christ is God’.
It would appear by Paul’s language ‘now I want you to realize, to know…’ , that some in the church needed reminding about ‘headship’ (3 times in one verse). The headship of Christ, the headship of man over woman, and the ultimate headship of God. Men and women are created equal – equal in status; equal in value. Both created in the image of God. Yet with different roles!
Man – takes the lead (this doesn’t mean he is more important).
Woman – submits to man’s leadership (this doesn’t mean she is unimportant).
The reason Paul writes in these terms verse 3 (Paul who never married, one who persecuted the church, wanted to kill Christians and wonderfully converted through the power of Christ and His gospel) is simply to bring glory to God and Christ. So the end of verse 3 (the head of Christ is God) is very important if we want to get a grip on these different roles. The relationship between God and Christ is the basis for understanding the relationship between man and woman.
Father’s role – He takes the lead.
Son’s role – He submits willingly.
Jesus submits even if He disagrees! I don’t want to do it but…Your will be done! And He does so right up to the end of time as we read in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28. Surely, He must be our example too, whether we are a man or a woman?
PRAYER: Our Father in heaven, thank you for order – order in the church, order in relationships, order especially within the marriage relationship. Please protect us from sometimes being tempted to be contentious about the headship between man and woman. Help us instead to realize that whatever we do, however we live, it is with the intention to bring glory to God. Amen.