Hats, Hair and Meals?

Today’s reading is 1 Cor 11

At first glance our chapter today seems to be dealing with some rather strange topics. Does God really care if I cover my head, wear my hair long or short, or have a meal with friends? If we read this chapter literally and don’t look a bit deeper into it’s meaning and purpose, we might walk away thinking we need to make some changes in our appearance. I’m pretty sure that God is way more interested in my heart and my motives than how I wear my hair. So what is the point? What is God getting at in this passage?

In the first 16 verses of this chapter, Paul is using some pretty persuasive writing to the Corinthians to help them understand what was expected of them during worship. Looking at vs 16, it is pretty clear that Paul is dealing with an issue that is a cultural custom in this passage. It seems that the Corinthian women were in the process of working out their freedom in Christ and ended up making some choices that missed the mark of God’s intentions. The cultural custom around head coverings and hair length were in place to help everyone remember that God was the Head of the church and that men were heads of the family unit. When the Corinthian women threw off their head coverings, they were going beyond their freedom in Christ. In essence they were saying by this action that there is no authority, which is a self-serving attitude. Because the Corinthians were pursuing self-interests, they were unwilling to subordinate themselves to the needs of others, and worse, they were placing themselves above God. Now we are getting into some territory that speaks to me and continues to be prevalent in our culture today. This principle behind the head covering issue is something that all people throughout time have struggled with and faced no matter what the cultural norm has looked like.

So the last 17 verses of this passage deal with the Lord’s Supper. It seems that back during early church time, the Lord’s Supper was an actual meal. When the people gathered to worship, part of that worship time was sharing a meal together. It looks like this was getting twisted enough in the Corinthian church that it was actually producing the exact opposite results than it was intended to produce. It appears that just as we sometimes struggle today, the Corinthians were separating by friend groups, forming cliques and eating fancy meals together with their friends, while other people were hurt because they were left out, maybe because they couldn’t afford such an elaborate version of the meal. The Lord’s Supper represents the most selfless and giving act ever known. The Corinthians were, and we are called to partake in this meal to remember the selfless gift of Christ taking our place, paying the price for our sin. Instead of a unifying remembrance of a selfless act, they turned it into a selfish time of fun with friends to the exclusion of others. They were actually doing more harm than good.

As I read this passage and think on the ways that these Christians got off track, I sometimes wish that I had Paul as a personal friend and that he would send me letters pointing out the places I have twisted God’s truth, and missed the mark trying to live by God’s principles. I tell myself that it would be so much easier to know where I am messing up if I got direct instructions in a letter like so many of the people in the new testament did. (The truth is that I would probably melt into a puddle of shame if that actually happened!) The good news is that we have a loving God who knows our hearts and minds. He knows us perfectly and knows how we learn best and at what pace we are able to make changes. He has also gifted us the Holy Spirit who is willing to point out our messes if we are brave enough to ask for help. Let’s choose today to take the time to ask God to show us where we are missing the mark. Let’s ask Him to show us the places in our lives where we are putting ourselves and our desires ahead of others needs, or worse Him.