Today my bible plan told me to read Chapters 11 and 12 of 1 Corinthians. I was definitely excited to see this on my bible plan for today because 1 Corinthians is my favorite book of the bible. This book has taught me so much about what it means to be a Christian woman and the roles of a man and a woman and the relationship they should have with one another and with God.
When I read these chapters today, verses 4-15 of 1 Corinthians surprised and confused me at first. These verses say that women must keep their heads covered at all times, whereas men are to keep their heads uncovered. The first thing that came to mind was honestly Muslim women. They must always keep their heads covered – is this the same thing? Have I been dishonoring God my whole life? Are the Muslim women onto something?
I breathed a sigh of relief when I read verse 15 which states, “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.” This verse seems to confirm that by a “covering” all that is really meant is hair. But what about women with short hair? Are they dishonoring God? How short is too short?
I decided to Google this issue for more information. Here are 3 sources I looked at:
I feel like most of these sources say “we don’t really know” combined with “it was a cultural thing”. I am leaning towards it being a cultural tradition or custom. If we look back to scripture in verse 2 Paul states, “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.”
Here, the word “ordinances” stands out the most. I assume an ordinance is a tradition, but what does Google say?
Okay, so not quite tradition but rather law – something much more serious. But whose law is it? Is it God’s law or is it the church’s? Context is everything here. I believe it was church law at the time since Paul is talking to the church of Corinth and helping them to remember their first love – the church. He is helping them to restructure since their church was filled with so much sin and unworthy of honor. In this verse then, Paul is praising them for holding the ordinances – or laws – of the church…the laws that Paul has put into place for them.
Verse 16 also stands out to me where it says, “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the church of God.” Two words stand out to me here: church and custom. I think of the word “custom” the same way that I think of the word “ordinance” – as meaning “tradition”. However, I was wrong about the definition of ordinance, so I could just as well be wrong about the definition of the word “custom”, so let’s look at Google.
Oh look at that – I was right on this one! Paul’s use of the word “custom” here shows he was talking about a tradition. Furthermore, he was talking about a tradition that is very specific for that time period. I believe this means that it’s not a defined, universal law for all of mankind meant to survive the test of time, but rather it was a church law for this specific church or this specific region (the people of Corinth) during that specific time. We can’t know exactly how specific this law was for the people or exactly how Paul intended us to interpret it, but I think it’s safe to assume that this law was for a specific time period. The word “church” used in this verse further confirms that it was a church tradition, not a law ordered by God.
So, where does that leave us and women in the church today? Well, I don’t think it’s “wrong” for women to adhere to this old custom and to choose to wear a head covering, but they also aren’t required to. I think it’s their choice. However, I think that the head covering was a symbol during that time that pledges a woman’s loyalty to her husband. Verses 13-15 states, “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.” The covering was something specific for women that men were not meant to wear. I think our society/culture has created its own version of that today. Some of the above sources I looked at say that it’s wedding rings, but I don’t think that is quite right because men wear wedding rings, too. However, I think they are on the right tract. This is what I think it is:
Yes, I know sometimes men will wear an engagement ring these days, but it is still far less common and by some even considered “taboo”. Male engagement rings are also usually much more masculine than female engagement rings (the traditional diamond ring). In the past when Paul was talking to the church of Corinth the head coverings were meant for married women to wear as a symbol of their loyalty to their husbands. I think the engagement ring has the same purpose in our culture today. A woman who is about to be married wears it to show her loyalty to her husband. Once the woman is married she adds a wedding ring but the woman usually wears the engagement ring with the wedding ring. Either way, it is still a symbol of her loyalty to her husband.
Another verse from chapter 11 that stood out to me was verse 17 that states, “Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worst.” Here Paul is condemning the church of Corinth for saying that the church is not uniting in a way that lifts up the congregation, but rather, it tears them down. When I read this I thought of the people of Corinth staring at women and whispering things like “Look at her hair, it’s not nearly long enough!” (assuming that the head covering was a woman’s hair and not an actual head piece). What good would that do? Paul is saying we shouldn’t be quick to judge and gossip and bring down people in the church, but instead we should unite and help each other out, for we are the body of Christ and when one member stumbles it is our job to help them back up.
1 Corinthians Chapter 12 further discusses the body of Christ and the role of the church and its members. In verse 26 Paul says, “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it, or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” This reminds me of what Pastor Lex DeLong has preached – we are all united in Christ. We are one body of Christ and when one of our brothers and sisters of Christ falls, we all fall. When one of us rejoices, we all rejoices. We are all made up of one.
I don’t think this is the case in a lot of churches today and that makes me really sad. There are too many churches that are quick to judge, scorn, and gossip when one of the members sins or goes through a rough patch in life. Not only is that unbiblical, but I think that is sin in itself. God doesn’t want us to scorn other church members. I think he would want us to confront the individual and to help them to correct their behavior, but that’s it. The key word here: help. He would want us to help our brother or sister in Christ back up and if we’re gossiping and judging, that is not helping.
When I read these verses I also felt extremely thankful and blessed to belong to such a wonderful church now – Washington Baptist Church in Turnersville, NJ. We are not perfect, as nobody is except God, but I do believe that we are doing an incredible job with striving to become the kind of church Paul talks about in the bible in chapters like Corinth. I know that from my experience being a member of this church we are a group of people that make up the body of Christ that really does care for and love one another. Some churches I’ve been to and you’re just another nameless face. Yes, our church is small, but I truly believe that even if we grew exponentially, this would still be the kind of church where everyone takes the time to get to know everyone and to pray for each other. When someone is hurting in the church, we all feel it and when someone is succeeding, we feel their joy. We’ve cried together as a church, but we’ve also laughed, smiled, rejoiced, and ate way more than we probably should (we’re a church that really loves food :)).
Are you looking for a new church to attend? Washington Baptist Church would love to have you! Come join us for Sunday School on Sundays at 9:30 followed by our sermon at 10:30. For more information:
Image Credits: Yale
In the mid 1900’s, Virginia Woolf published a collection of essays. Among these essays was “The Angel in The House”, an essay where Woolf describes her life as a female writer. During this time period, women were beginning to gain more freedom than what they had in the 19th century, but they were still often viewed as inferior to their male counterparts. Woolf discusses this by using the angel in the house as a metaphor for female purity and wholesomeness. Women during this time period were expected to be modest, innocent, pure, or simply angelic.
In “The Angel In The House”, Woolf describes how she fought hard to kill the Angel in the House. This represents the author’s struggle to break free of society’s expectations of women. She doesn’t want to play the role of the pure, angelic, innocent woman anymore. Woolf also mentions how playing the role of the angel in the house can hinder a woman’s writing. She explains this by stating:
For, as I found, directly I put pen to paper, you cannot review even a novel without having a mind of your own, without expressing what you think to be the truth about human relations, morality, sex. And all these questions, according to the Angel in the House, cannot be dealt with freely and openly by women; they must charm, they must conciliate, they must – to put it bluntly – tell lies if they are to succeed. Thus, whenever I felt the shadow of her wing or the radiance of her halo upon my page, I took up the inkpot and flung it at her. She died hard (Woolf 46).
From this quote we can infer that Woolf wished to speak honestly in her writing about such taboo topics as sex, morality, and human relations and that her honest opinions went against what the majority of women were expected to think or feel. Perhaps Woolf wasn’t the picture portrait of an angelic woman she was supposed to be. However, breaking free of this stereotypical role was no easy task for Woolf as she further elaborated:
She was always creeping back when I thought I had dispatched her. Though I flatter myself that I killed her in the end, the struggle was severe (Woolf 46).
Here I think it is important to remember Woolf’s struggle with mental illnesses such as depression (which ultimately lead her to commit suicide years later). I think that Woolf’s struggle to break free of society’s norms and the roles she was expected to play took a toll on her mental health and helped to aid in her depression. It is sad to think that a women just simply couldn’t be free to live her life on her own terms during this time period.
In addition to the expectation of living a pure, modest, angelic lifestyle, women were also viewed as being inferior to men. Men had so much more freedom in their life and especially in their writing than woman had. They could speak or write freely without having to worry about what society would say. On the other hand, there were some topics that were simply off limits for women to speak and to write about. Woolf once again hints at her desire to write about human sexuality, a topic that seems to get squashed by fear of what society, or men in particular, would think reading such work written by a women. Woolf elaborates on this point by saying:
To speak without figure he had thought of something, something about the body, about the passions which it was unfitting for her as a woman to say. Men, her reason told her, would be shocked. The consciousness of what men will say of a woman who speaks the truth about her passions had roused her from her artist’s state of unconsciousness. She could write no more.
Woolf seems to be hinting that she has strong sexual urges or experiences that she wishes to release in her writing. Perhaps she is using her writing as an outlet to not only tell about her desire, but further explore and examine her own personal sexual feelings. However, the fear of what society and men specifically would say and think about her keep her from writing her true feelings and opinions. Women during this time were viewed with utmost innocent and were not supposed to have any sexual desires. It was a double standard for men, who were free to feel lust, passion, and exhibit sexual longings and desires.
Although Woolf brags about defeating the Angel in the House, she admits that she couldn’t bring herself to overcome the inferiority brought upon her by the opposite sex. No matter how strong her yearning to write about her true feelings were, they were always repealed by the stigmas. She could never truly be her true, open and honest self. The work we read by Woolf offered only small parts of who she really was inside.
Sexuality is something that Woolf struggled with throughout her life. A basic Google mentions that Woolf was sexually abused by her family and was also bisexual and struggling to hide lesbian affairs and her true feelings regarding sexuality. Others suggest that Woolf was actually a lesbian, but felt that she had to pretend to be straight for society’s sake. Woolf was also known to repress her sexual desires, which is something I can see in “The Angel in the House”.
I wonder how Woolf’s writings would have differed if they had been written today. Now we live in a time period where feminists are still fighting for equality, but women have many more rights and are much closer to achieving equality than they were in the mid 1900’s. Also, gay marriage is a hot topic that is becoming more and more accepted within our society. I think that if Woolf was alive today her writing would be much less censored because she wouldn’t feel the need to refrain from speaking her mind as much. I also think Woolf would be less of a feminist and more of a gay rights activist fully embracing her rumored lesbianism and I don’t believe she would have ever gotten married to any men.