I have been doing two things: (1) writing a “What I Believe” page that details what I believe to be truth, and (2) reading through I Corinthians, both of which have led to today’s post: I Corinthians 11:2-16 talks about women and their need to wear headcoverings when praying or prophesying as a recognition of the headship of man, of their subjection to man. It is important to note that subjection does not indicate inferiority. Although a woman is subject to her husband, she is not inferior.
I have not been in churches that have taught this, although I have seen occasional women honor this teaching. Most of the time it seems to be ignored as a cultural instruction to those in Paul’s day or the long hair of the woman fulfills the requirement of a headcovering.
A couple things that the commentary I use says that have convicted me to pray and think on this further. The commentary I use is the Believer’s Bible Commentary by William MacDonald. First, it says, “Some think that the instruction given here was applicable only to Paul’s day. Some even go so far as to contend that these verses reflect Paul’s prejudice against women, since he was a bachelor! Still others simply accept the teaching of this portion, seeking to obey its precepts even if they do not understand them all.” (Emphasis in original). The other thing pointed out by the commentary is: “Does Paul mean that the things he has just been saying are not important enough to contend about? Does he mean that there was no such custom of women veiling their heads in the churches? Does he mean that these teachings are optional and not to be pressed upon women as the commandments of the Lord? It seems strange that any such interpretation would ever be offered, yet they are commonly heard today. This would mean that Paul considered these instructions as of no real consequence, and he had just been wasting over half a chapter of Holy Scripture in setting them forth!”
Of course, I don’t know what to do next if I become convicted on this but my wife does not. That would be a strange result, would it not?
So, here is what I believe this portion of scripture teaches, without addressing whether it still applies today: God is the head of Jesus, Jesus is the head of man, man is the head of woman. This is the natural order of things. Man is not to cover his head as this would be a covering of his glory — a covering of Jesus. In the same way, woman is to cover her head as an acknowledgement of her subjection to man. The headcovering rules only apply when prophesying or praying.
Does this mean that when a woman wants to pray she must first find a headcovering? I often pray in the middle of the night when I wake up and can’t sleep. Must a woman find a headcovering at these times? Or is she only to cover her head when she is in public, since the headcovering is simply an outward sign of an inward grace?