I have been wearing a head covering to “public worship” for about 4 years now. I have been a Christian for 13 years. I was not raised Christian and I definitely wasn’t raised around women who wore head coverings.
When I became a Christian I remember reading 1 Cor. 11 and wondering: “Why don’t women still wear head coverings? If God says it is dishonorable for women to have their head uncovered (verse 5) then shouldn’t what He considers dishonorable be important to us?” The fact that it was in the new testament carried a lot of weight with me too in that it wasn’t under the old covenant, this was a new covenant guideline.
The argument I often/almost always heard was: “it’s a cultural thing.” Since when is a Christian called to do what culture dictates? Don’t we allow the Word of God to direct our lives/decisions?
I moved to WA about 5 years ago. When we came there was one family here that had a couple of the ladies wearing one. It intrigued me. So I asked them about it and how they came to that conviction. Fast forward a few months and I am on the phone with a friend that went to a church where there was a woman teaching pastor. I asked her: “How can you choose to go to a church where a woman is teaching men when the bible clearly teaches that shouldn’t happen?” (1 Tim. 2:12) Her response: “I’ll give you the same reason that you would give me for why you aren’t wearing a head covering, it’s cultural.” Oops. Can’t argue with that. She was letting the current culture, which says women should be able to teach men, dictate that it was okay for women to teach men just as I was letting the current culture decide whether or not I needed to wear a head covering. I was convicted and on a mission to figure out once and for all if God wanted women to wear head coverings and if He did, I would do it.
Let’s look through 1 Cor. 11 together. Some of the information here was taken from a helpful website you can see by clicking here.
Paul starts out with saying in verse 2: “Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.” Interesting. Maintain traditions? Isn’t our current culture all about doing away with traditions? Well, I guess that isn’t just the current culture, looks like it’s always been the case for people to stray from traditions and let the world determine what they will or won’t do hence Paul recognizing the Corinthians for maintaining tradition. Traditions aren’t always popular but they often serve a purpose, especially if they are biblical (like head coverings). Paul commends the Corinthians for maintaining traditions.
Verse 3: “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.“ This is the beginning of explaining the symbolism of a head covering. We are to wear one as women as a symbol that man is the head of his wife. When I put my head covering on it reminds me of this. I remember that Scott is the head of me and our home, not me. This is also why I believe head coverings are for married women. We put something over our hair as a symbol of our position under our husband.
Verses 4 & 5: “Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.“ This verse particularly intrigued me. MEN STILL PRACTICE THIS TODAY. They recognize it isn’t talking about long hair but as an actual covering. Why haven’t ladies made the same decision? In fact, it is seen as disrespectful and shameful to keep a hat on when men pray, just as God said it was a shame for a woman to pray with her head uncovered. If you are a woman that doesn’t wear a head covering then you really have no place to be upset when some teenage kid refuses to remove his hat for prayer.
Verses 6-9: “For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.“ These verses again demonstrate the symbolism of head coverings, men are the head. The end of verse 6 confirms again that it is a literal covering and not long hair because it says: “let her cover her head.”
Verse 10: “That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” This was one of the “clinchers” for me. This verse helped me in great ways to confirm that head coverings were not cultural. Angels do not change with the culture. Angels do not let the world determine what is right, they go by the Word of God and if they are involved with head coverings then I have all the more reason to wear one. The fact that Paul calls it a symbol is another confirmation that it is something we ADD. Our hair and husbands are not symbols.
Verses 11-15 “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. “ Verse 15 tripped me up for years and gave me “permission” to not wear a head covering because I decided my hair was my covering. But, as I clarified earlier there were a couple verses prior to this that confirmed it was an actual covering. (When I went to a young lady who wears one and asked her about this verse she said: “Oh yes, people who don’t want to wear a head covering love that verse.” 🙂
When I studied the Greek I found further confirmation that our hair is described as a different type of covering.
Paul said that men should not cover/katakalupto (Strong’s 2619) their heads. And in verse 11 Paul contrasts that with: “Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered/akatakaluptos?” (Strong’s 177) Note that ‘uncovered’/akatakaluptos is the opposite of ‘to cover’/katakalupto. Katakaluptos basically means to UNcover or UNveil. So far, we have a ‘men uncover, women cover’ command. Now for where the confusion comes in: When Paul refers to a woman’s natural hair covering, he uses an altogether different word: “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering/peribolaion.“ (Strong’s 4018). Peribolaion means something thrown around (loose items like a veil, a mantle, a vesture). Hair is more like a glorious decoration given to woman. Now if Paul had meant the naturally occuring hair covering and the headship-type covering to be one and the same, he would have used the same word for each. Instead, a woman’s natural hair covering (peribolaion) is being contrasted to this other covering (katakalupto) that women wear. In fact, the katakalupto actually covers the peribolaion.
Paul has begun this passage showing the contrasts between men and women in this passage: men are uncovered, women are covered. Then Paul supports his case for head covering by pointing out that even in nature a women is given a covering — by her long hair. But Paul never makes the leap that hair itself IS a suitable head covering alone. If such a natural covering sufficed, then Paul is wasting his time teaching this since the women already had a natural hair covering. Paul deliberately used different words for the two coverings so we would understand they were complementary to each other but not identical. So there is no choice offered in this passage that one may choose to either shave one’s head and cover it, or to leave one’s hair long and remain uncovered. The natural order is to either wear a covering over the hair or to fully exploit the shame of being uncovered by also shaving off one’s hair too. Better: if you resist submitting to the customary female head covering, you may as well reject your natural hair as well.
Lastly, I should mention I only wear it to “public worship” since the chapter seems to be addressing “public worship” (which some of your bibles may state). It seems at times it is okay for a man’s hair to be covered (wear a hat) and therefore it is okay at times for a woman’s head to be uncovered. For public worship we don’t see (for the most part) men wearing hats… but we should see women with covered heads.
For further reading I highly recommend: www.headcoveringmovement.com This site is very helpful and encouraging and seems to prove that God is stirring women’s hearts everywhere to cover their heads.
You can also find a plethora of beautiful head coverings that can be found at: http://garlandsofgrace.com/