The long and short of it
Couple of stories
Tobogganing – “Let the lady go first”, “I’m a man”
3 experiences of going for a meal
1) UK couple during Rugby World Cup – Come in, grab a beer, sit down, shut up, the rugby is on – didn’t feel very honoured!
2) Brazilians – man shake hand, lady kiss on both cheeks (start with right)
3) Sri Lankan family – only two places set, food out, family watched us eat – showing great honour to guests
Today’s passage is a difficult one! Been working through 1 Corinthians and got to chapter 11
Paul is beginning to talk about what Sunday gatherings look like.
This section looks at how men and women relate to each other – lots of unclear cultural stuff.
Advantage of working through a book of the bible is that you end up at passages like this. God inspired the Bible, we believe it so we need to look at it, work our what it means and apply it correctly!
Going to read it – notice how many times head, honour and shame appear in various forms
So Paul is starting a section of 1 Corinthians that is about Sunday morning gatherings and doing them well. The main point of this section is that we can behave in ways that result in honour or shame on a Sunday morning and Paul wants us to honour one another.
Ancient Greece, like large parts of the world today was an honour/shame culture
Honour is the worth or value of persons both in their eyes and in the eyes of their village, neighborhood, or society.
Shame is the emotion of a lack of worth or value in your own eyes and people around – we feel shame when we can’t look someone in the eye and head is down rather lifted up.
Signs of honour are often external, physical actions – like taking your shoes off when you enter someone’s home in certain cultures. Setting food out for guests and waiting till they have gone before eating.
One of the things that is clear from this passage is that hair length and wearing or not wearing a veil is a cultural indicator or honour/shame in Corinth.
v4 a man praying with head covered is shameful, a woman praying incovered is also shameful, as bad as being shaved!
You can see there are some cultural expressions of an underlying principle.
There are two layers to this passage like a sandwich has bread and meat. The head coverings and hair length is the bread, the underlying principle of bringing honour and honouring one another in worship is the meat.
So let’s understand the principles within the text.
1) The Trinity – that’s the understanding or doctrine that Christians have that there is one God in three persons – Father, Son, Spirit. They are all equally God, but they are distinct in personhood. Passages like this one show that even though Father, Son and Spirit are equal, there is voluntary submission. So v3 let’s us know the head of Christ is God.
There is equality but voluntary submission.
So Paul says that in a marriage the husband is head over the wife. That immediately brings up horrible allusions of oppressed Muslim women treated like possessions, or 1950’s families where wifey lines up the kid for husband to come home, hands over the slippers and a pipe and makes sure dinner is served and the kids are put to bed. Those are horrible distortions, a result of the fall. The trinity shows us equality and headship, but headship is servant leadership – serving not being served and in the case of husbands loving their wives as much a Christ loved the church, laying down their lives for their wives.
2) Paul also alludes to Genesis 2 in v8,9- which tells the story of creation, and Adam – it was not good for him to be a lone. He was incomplete, needing help, so God created Eve to be a helper. Man and woman together are the image of God – they are equal as Gal 3:27 tells us but distinct both in sexual distinctions ad so many other wonderful ways.
3) Principle Paul is Joel 2:27-29 which is a prophecy of the new covenant coming and the age of the Spirit. v27 And my people shall never again be put to shame.
There is so much shame in sinful life – the battle of the sexes, sin making us feel dirty and unable to look others in the eye
The new covenant, the coming of Jesus meant shame was to be banished. Jesus, God, the most honoured of all, shamed himself by doing on the cross, taking our shame and sin so we could be restored to the place of honour and dignity that men and women were originally created to have.
Joel 2 continues to bring a vision of a people of the Spirit – men and women able to hear God for themselves, young and old able to prophecy, dream and have visions.
The new covenants takes shame filled, sinful men and women and cleans them up, restores them to the place of honour and endows them equally the ability to contribute in prayer and prophecy to corporate church life.
Paul grabs hold of all that
Men and women – the image of God – equal but different in looks and roles
Shame gone, so live in the good of the place of honour that we have
Men and women equally able and gifted to contribute to spirit filled worship life
He says come on go for it! Pray and Prophecy with equal importance and dignity, but do it in a way that honours one another
That’s the underlying principles in this text.
Long hair/short hair, Veil/No veil are cultural expressions of honour and shame!
The funny thing is that both the men and women would have worn what would now be considered dresses – the hair length and veils distinguished the sexes.
For a woman to have no veil and or short hair is to say she is immoral, adulteress or even a prostitute
For a man, no veil and short hair was masculine!
Clearly we have different expressions of masculinity and femininity now!
The toboggan guy had a woman’s hair and camp dress sense.
Hair was an expression of sexuality then in Corinth just as now – people still spent lots of time and attention it – apparently the average woman will spend £26k in her lifetime on her hair.
The Nazis shaved Jewish women’s heads to shame them knowingly.
When I was 19 a man outside Salford Rugby league club told me to get saved and get my hair cut – I think he was misapplying this passage – I did have bushy curly hair, but it was still manly!
Paul’s passion is that men and women get to participate in the new Spirit filled life in worship together, praying and prophecying. Celebrating our equal status as image carriers, new creations in Christ but also celebrating our distinctives – men dressing and having man haircuts and women dressing and having womanly hair cuts. Clearly that will look different in different cultures.
To sum up
We were all once in the shame of sin
Jesus came and died on the cross to take away our shame and restore us to the place of honour in relationship to the Father.
Both men and women have the Spirit and can pray and prophecy
Both men and women need to honour one another in the way they look so we can focus on Jesus not be wondering if that’s a man or a woman or be distracted by the sight of contours of bits we don’t have!
Not asking us to be old fashioned or fuddy duddy in our dress and hairstyles. But he is asking us to be masculine or feminine.
As we’ve seen he appeals to
The Old Testament v8-9
Nature v14 – by which he means culture
And lastly his apostolic authority in v16
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