Friday, May 16, 2008

Discovering Headcovering

In this modern church age, covering one's head is often seen as an outdated practice reserved only for the extremely orthodox or downright legalistic Christian. A majority of today's Christians, both men and women alike, feel that the practice of headcovering is "not for today." Approximately three months ago, I began covering my head. I reached a point where the idea that headcovering was "a social custom for that particular time" did not hold any water for me. I am fully convinced that the practice of headcovering described in 1 Corinthians 11 is indeed for today, and I hope to describe why I have grown to love this practice and the way it has turbo-charged my love for God and His Word.

If you simply Google the phrase, "Is headcovering for today?" You will find several well-constructed, detailed arguments in support of this ritual. For this reason, I won't to spend too much time regurgitating what's already been written on the subject, but just touch on the basic points that sold me on the practice. First, let's look at the passage in Scripture where God commands us to cover: 1 Corinthians 11:2-17. I will not print the passage here, but encourage you to look at it in any version of your choice, and I have deliberately chosen to include verse 17 in this discussion because it was one of the verses that helped solidify my decision to cover.

Right from the beginning of the passage in vs. 2, Paul says he praises the Corinthians for the way they have observed this ordinance (some translations read "traditions"). In vs. 17, Paul states that he does not commend them for the way they are observing his instructions for the Lord's supper (another ordinance). Hence, the context of the entire chapter is about about spiritual ordinances that have great meaning. They are laws, commands from God that must be followed. (For some examples of Old Testament ordinances, click here.)
In addition to headcovering, I can think of two other ordinances were given in the New Testament: Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

The Lord's Supper is the other ordinance addressed in 1 Corinthians 11. We still celebrate the Lord's supper today, and we still use bread and wine. We would never say the practice is "cultural" or "outdated," or think of using potato chips and Coca-Cola, arguing that these elements are more "culturally relevant." Likewise, we should not abandon headcovering because we feel it's not for today. We have been instructed to cover our heads, and we do not decide for ourselves the expiration date for those instructions. Some may argue that because ordinances are a type of law and we are no longer under the law, therefore we don't need to cover. This argument misses the point. It is true, we are not under the law because we are no longer condemned by it, having received the righteousness of Christ. But this doesn't mean we cease to obey. Even though we are no longer under the law, it's still a good idea to refrain from lying or stealing. But we also continue to follow the law out of love for God. When God issues a command, such as: "Preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15), or "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19), we obey that command, not because we will be condemned if we don't, but because we love the Lord, and He says "to obey is better than sacrifice . . . rebellion is as the sin of divination." (1 Samuel 15:22-23). Simply put, we cover our heads because God says so, and if we love Him, we will obey His commands.

But why would God command us to do such a thing? What is the purpose of covering? The answer is found in vs 10. We often talk about baptism being a symbol. We also consider the Lord's Supper to be a symbol. In vs. 10, headcovering is also described as a symbol of authority. Truly, the word "symbol" is injected into the translation and is not in the original Greek, but the point is, verse 10 and the entire headcovering passage is talking about authority. Specifically, the passage is addressing the order of authority in God's design. The most prominent argument against headcovering today is the idea that women were instructed to cover their heads to distinguish themselves from the local prostitutes. But nowhere in this passage can we infer such a thing. Not only are prostitutes not mentioned, but unbelievers are not mentioned either, nor their customs. Yet modern Christianity insists the passage is about a cultural custom, despite the fact the entire passage is about authority from beginning to end. If anyone wishes to know why women should cover, the answer is not in the cultural norms of the day. In verse 10, we are given a direct answer as to the reason why we should cover: "For this reason, a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head: because of the angels" (NKJV, emphasis mine). There are times when the Bible seems unclear, but this is certainly not one of them. In verse 10, we are explicitly told the concept of headcovering is directly tied to "the angels." I don't know about you, but I happen to subscribe to the idea that angels are not cultural.

But what does this mean? I have searched high and low and for answers. I have read several articles on this topic, some good, some that were really reaching . . . and all were in agreement that the headcovering means something to the angels, but what? If you Google the phrase, "Because of the angels," you will get a plethora of interesting theories. Although there are a few theories that seem to make sense, only one lit a fire in me, making the practice of headcovering irresistible. It was purely hypothetical, but I later discovered this view appears to be supported in the Scriptures.

MacArthur (1997) writes: "Women are to be submissive by wearing the symbol of authority so as not to offend those most holy and submissive creatures who watch the church, who were present at creation, when God designed the order of authority for men and women," (p. 1745). A headcovering brings joy to the angels, who submit to God just as we do. The symbol shows them that we are submitting to God alongside them. But that's only half the story.

Now, here's where it gets really interesting.

I also came upon another article that suggests this symbol also has great meaning to the fallen angels, those who chose to rebel against God. God's messengers are not the only ones present during our times of corporate or private worship. Demons are present as well. This is truly fascinating in light of the fact that we do not practice headcovering in the modern church. (It is no coincidence that the practice of headcovering seems to have decreased simultaneously with the increase of feminist consciousness.)

In the King James version, verse ten reads: "For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels." The word "power" is the Greek word exousia (Strong's #1849) in the original text (often translated as "authority" in some versions). Click here to see how this word is literally translated.

This word is always used whenever the Bible refers to "principalities and powers." (You can do your own study here.) The most commonly known verse discussing "principalities and powers" is Ephesians 6:12: "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (NKJV). When a woman covers her head, I believe she is not only submitting to the godly authorities of her God and her husband. I believe she is also engaging in a very simple act of spiritual warfare against the ungodly authorities of this world.When we look at headcovering from this perspective, it becomes anything but oppressive. It becomes so gloriously empowering, you almost feel sorry for men that they cannot partake in this ritual!

This is truly compelling in light of the way so many people erroneously view Christianity, especially with regard to women. We are told that Christianity is oppressive to women, that practices such as headcovering are archaic and outdated, symbolizing a primitive culture where women are considered to be second-class citizens. Satan wants nothing more than for you to believe this lie, because in doing so, you are following the world according to his design, a world of rebellion and chaos.

But when you don a headcovering, you are communicating to all the fallen angels that you have submitted to God's order and not chosen to follow the devil's disorder. I have my own theory regarding this. I believe that when a woman wears a headcovering, she is making a very strong statement to the enemy of her soul. She is saying, "You may have deceived the first woman, and you may have deceived millions of women into rejecting God's design, but you will not deceive me!"

Dear readers, when we look at headcovering from this perspective, it becomes anything but oppressive. It becomes so gloriously empowering, you almost feel sorry for men that they cannot partake in this ritual!

This is why I cover. My prayer is that this article I've written will inspire you toward your own journey of discovering covering and the joy that comes with it. If so, you will probably be asking yourself, "How should I cover? When should I cover? What will it be like the first Sunday I walk into church with my new cover?" These were questions I had as well. I am still in a process of discovery myself, but I will share my insights on types of covers, how to wear them, when to wear them, and how to respond to any strange looks you may encounter, all in my next post.

Stay tuned . . .


Reference


MacArthur, J. (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Nelson Publishing, Inc.

9 comments:

LisaM said...

Well written article and a lovely blog as well.

Wretched said...

Wow....I think you've changed my mind. In the middle of it I was like "I wanna cover my head! I wanna PO the demons!"

That's awesome Jen. I always admired you for it but now I see it's not just some thing you want to do or feel compelled to do. It's a much more beautiful act. Thank you so much for posting this :)

Alana said...

I also wear a headcovering out of obedience to God, and I totally like your thinking on this subject.

Dawn said...

Fellow headcovering sister here! Very very good article and well thought out!
Have a blessed week!!!

~ Dawn ~

Sammybunny said...

Very lovely article! Although I do not currently cover (am praying about the issue in earnest) I have found wonderful and delightful information and encouragement here! I just love reading your blog!

Jennifer said...

Thank you to everyone for the encouragement! It is such a joy to see others covering as well.

Veiled Glory said...

Beautiful series on the HC. Your tone is humble and generous, without being overly conciliatory. Keep up the great work!

~Anna

Veiled Glory

Randy and April said...

Wow. I recently blogged about this subject, and someone linked me to your post. First of all, let me just say how much your humility shines through your writing. I have been trying to research both sides of this issue, and I'm finding that, in general, those in the no-headcovering camp are far more adamant and far less graceful than those I have read who are pro-headcovering. So thank you for that. I am also amazed at the way you are able to explain things in such a way that I say "a-ha!" The point about angels has been the sticker for me--like you said, angels certainly aren't cultural. But I really didn't know what it meant. What you had to say really does seem to make sense, but more importantly, I believe it is scriptural. I have really enjoyed reading through your posts--keep up the good work!

Elessar said...

I thought this would interest you. It was an interesting study on 1 Corinthians 11. I imagine it would be difficult to let go of after it has become such an identity, even if you did think it was an accurate interpretation.