Walter attends a church that values head coverings for women. Never really thinking about it, he figured it was a woman thing. But returning after months away, folk were visibly bothered by his shoulder length hair. “So what is with the long hair, Walter?” He was then shown Bible references, about hair length for men and women. Walter asks, “Do I really need to get a haircut?”
Referring to 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, the usual answer one hears to this is “Oh, that was the culture back then.” Arguments may break out, as if following Paul’s words would lead directly to the oppression of women. But if read in context, there really is no reason to be concerned. Put down those scissors ladies! Thumbs out of your pits, men! Now force a smile and read on:
Paul is not talking godly fashion here. He is talking about worship. In God’s Kingdom, the Father is the head of Christ, who is head of man, who is head of woman. It isn’t about personal importance, but rather about, God’s glory revealed. While men defend their locks and women their equality, Paul is talking about the interacting between God, other heavenly creatures, and earthlings. Paul isn’t “putting women in their place.” It was he who wrote of those in Christ:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
In 1st Corinthians, Paul is talking about worshiping orderly. This is because creatures unseen are also involved when we pray and worship. Look closely at what Paul says:
For this reason, and for the sake of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.”
1 Corinthians 11:10
Okay, I’m gonna “what if” you here: What if the angels while playing their part in the great spiritual battle, can be hindered by our messing with signs of authority? What if a Buck Private wore Sergeant stripes on their uniform, and Captains wore the hats of Privates? The battle could get confusing.
This authority in order thing is not new. According to Numbers 30, Fathers had authority to free their daughters up from vows, and husbands for their wives, whenever said vows were regretted. Yet men could not be released from regretted vows. In Deuteronomy 22:5 God wanted no confusion, and so insisted that men and women dress gender appropriate. He’s not talking to drag queens. He’s talking to His people. Nowadays, the idea of a woman being under a man’s authority is considered by the world, repugnant. But is it? Did the authority that Paul spoke of, change at some point these last 2,000 years? If so, when?
I promise I won’t touch your hair if you don’t touch mine. But I don’t think Paul was just addressing Corinthian culture here. It isn’t about men vs. women. Beings that are unseen by us are influenced by us in worship. It’s not about who is dependent, or who is more important. Paul next writes:
“In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.”
1 Corinthians 11:11,12
Perhaps we don’t understand authority. That would be because of our worldly training. Christians must remember what Jesus expects of those with authority in His Kingdom.
“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Kingdom authority is not worldly authority! Spiritual authority means service to others. The church is to model this, for both the world and for the angels and other spiritual beings to see. Prayer and worship transcend flesh and bones, reaching through the heavens, touching God Himself. Who are we to come into His presence at all? Yet God has made a way for us through Christ Jesus. And we want to argue about hair and who has what authority? Forget your fashion! Consider the Angels whom God sends to minister to you.
“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”
The Bible must be our reference for angels. They aren’t chubby babies or bimbos with wings, as so many artists portray. We are part of a heavenly battle! When God sends out an army, going first into battle go the worshipers. (Psalm 68:25). And while we battle, God sends angels to minister to us. We must understanding that angels are involved.
We in Christ are the church. Angels are not. Angels are not human. They aren’t like us. I once thought angels were sarcastic like me. When the angel at the tomb said to those looking for Jesus’ body, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” I would read, “Why seek ye the living among the dead… Duh!” Or when after Jesus ascended and the disciples kept looking upward, two angels appeared and said to my thinking, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand there looking into the sky,… duh? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven….Oh duh-uh!” (Picturing angel # 2 rolling their eyes).
Then one day, I heard someone read one of the above passages and they read the angel’s question with such sincerity! They saw the angel as really not sure why the disciples were looking around the grave. The angel was not being sarcastic, but coming to help. Duh, Tom! That's what they do!
Angels are not omniscient like God, nor have they fallen like man. Yet they interact with both God and man. (1 Peter 1:12) Okay, more what ifs: What if angels don’t doubt? What if they are just learning about things like grace? Angels serve God. They do what He tells them to do. We don’t see them doubt in scripture, as people can. Humans experience both doubt and God’s grace. Peter writes of grace and the glories that follow Christ’s suffering: “Even angels long to look into these things.” (See 1 Peter 1:10-12).
Angels have at least once, experienced authority issues. Lucifer was an angel. He was the archangel in charge of music. But he became prideful. He wanted to rise above God. One third of the angels in heaven, sided with him! We know that Archangel Michael defeated Lucifer and cast him and his angels, out of heaven. It’s these remaining two-thirds angels who minister to God’s children. Paul knows more about this than he tells. Speaking about himself, he wrote:
“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man –whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.”
2 Corinthians 12:2
Paul saw things that God did not permit him to tell us. He writes in Ephesians about our role in what is going on in the heavenly realm. God is using us the church, to reveal His glory to others:
“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
All believers in Christ are “the church.” It matters heavenward, how we conduct ourselves here. How we interact with one another and God is being used to reveal to the “authorities and rulers in heavenly places,” God’s glory and mysterious wisdom. We are part of this great battle and adventure. Forget your hair, will ya?
One more "what if:" Jesus said that angels don’t marry. (Matthew 22:30) What if angels can’t easily tell the difference between men and women? Could that be why Paul instructs us to consider the angels by having proper signs of authority clearly visible? If there are things that angels don’t know, what if one of them is human gender? Ever see a critter and not know if it were a male or female at first glance? What if Paul, who has seen parts of heaven, is trying to get the church to keep God's busy angels clear on who they are ministering to, so that the church can better do our part in what is going on in the eternal realm?
Walter, I don’t care how you part your hair. The Bible doesn’t say how long is long or how short, short is for hair. But if the Lord calls you to a ministry where you’ll need transportation. And then if after praying, your Aunt Mavis gets a new car and gives you her old prize Mary Kay Cadillac…perhaps the angels think you’re a girl.