I want to blog a bit about the Christian head covering issue from the infamous 1 Corinthians 11 passage and my views on it. I am doing this with a tiny bit of apprehension, just because I know it's a bit of a controversial passage, and I know a lot of people will not agree with me. This point of this series is not to explain the passage in depth (although I will try to provide some resources to help with that). The point is to explain my views on the issue and how I came to a conclusion about the passage.
Let me start off by saying a few things right off the bat:
- Head covering is a personal choice of mine based on my convictions after studying 1 Corinthians 11 in depth. I wear a headcovering in church and usually during Bible study. I do not cover full time.
- Head covering has nothing to do with a person's salvation. Many religious groups that practice head covering are only doing so to give the appearance of godliness but they deny the power thereof.
- I do not judge other Christian ladies or look down upon those who choose not to wear a head covering because of a different interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11. Like I said before, this is a matter of personal conviction.
- 1 Corinthians 11, although a difficult & controversial passage, is in the Bible and thus in due season, Christians should take the time to study it and pray about it.
I have been wearing a head covering when in church since the Fall 2010 when my husband and I studied the passage in depth and came to the conclusion that the head covering in 1 Cor 11 is a literal head covering in addition to the hair, and it is relevant for today and was not just intended for the church back in Paul's day. Until that point, we had studied it on and off during different times for a couple of years, never coming to a conclusion or feeling like we fully understood it.
Growing up, this was not my view on the issue. Sure, I read the passage several times in my youth, but I never fully understood it. The passage always bothered me because I just didn't understand it. However, I had never once heard a sermon on that passage, and I didn't know any other Christians who wore a head covering to church. I was always under the impression that 1) the head covering is a cultural issue meant only for that specific time in history and/or 2) the hair is the only covering and there is no need for a second covering.
A few years ago, we attended a church where some of the women wore head coverings. In my ignorance, I was somewhat freaked out by this this first time we attended as I immediately coined them as "legalistic." One of the first things I asked a friend of mine was why they did this. Did it have something to do with salvation? Did they believe you had to wear one? Did I have to wear one to come to their church? The answer to all those questions was a resounding NO. It was a matter of personal conviction for the women who chose to wear one. Oh, okay. That was new to me and prompted me to study the issue once again. We attended that church until my husband was done university and then we moved back to our hometown. The entire time we attended there I did not once wear a head covering. I just never was convicted about it and didn't want to wear one just because some of the other women did.
On and off I would study the passage again, but I just never could feel like I understood it properly. I read commentaries looking at it from different viewpoints, but I wasn't convinced in my mind and heart about an interpretation.
In the summer and fall of 2011, my heart was prompted again to study the passage. This time, I stumbled across a sermon by Pastor John Macarthur on the passage. Although Pastor Macarthur ultimately comes to a different conclusion than I do, it was from his sermon that the 2 biggest issues were properly explained to me. That sermon was a big turning point for me with gaining understanding about that passage. The two issues that were finally settled for me were 1) there are 2 coverings (the hair and another covering on top of the head). 2) Verse 16, which I had previously misunderstood, which says "But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God." This verse confused me as I thought it might mean that if the issue is contentious, then it shouldn't be practiced. I also was confused by "we have no such custom". I thought...no such custom of what? practicing head covering? But then why would Paul bother explaining about it if they didn't practice it? Pastor Macarthur explains this verse very well and in fact, it means the very opposite of what I thought it might mean. It actually means that we have no such custom of being contentious about the practice, and if someone wants to be contentious and go against what Paul is writing, then they are essentially the odd one out for (lack of a better term) because all Christians including the Corinthian church and the other churches of God practice this without any contention.
I think that's where I'll stop for today.