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Women Undercover

“Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 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. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 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. 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. 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. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.” 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.

For a long time I regarded this passage as something that applied to another time. I did not know how this could apply to the modern family and modern society. But it’s hard to miss the fact that Paul bases this message in creation, not culture. So is it possible that our culture has strayed so far from what we were created to be?

When I was a boy, many women at church still wore veils. I didn’t know why. But I didn’t know why we did a lot of things at church back then. And those veils soon disappeared because I also grew up during the 60s and 70s, when women were becoming “liberated” from a lot of social conventions, like chastity, modesty, and respect for men. And these things came about because decades of technological progress leveled the economic playing field that made women less dependent on a husband. And after women got the vote, government slowly began to replace men as their primary protectors.

Today we live in a cultural environment where women’s contempt for men and masculinity is palpable. It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly men have withdrawn from the culture, and from leadership, leaving the most pandering sycophants and suck-ups making sure they say all the right things that won’t offend women. Today, men wear the veil. And it is the most counter-cultural thing to buck that trend, whether you are a man who boldly speaks his mind or a woman who chooses a family over a career.

Pay the Preacher

“This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

“Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.’ Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?” 1 Corinthians 9:3-12.

It is a shame that a man who was turning the world upside down with his preaching was treated like a beggar. But the shame is not his, but it is upon every one of us who believes that expanding the kingdom of God and saving sinners should come at someone else’s expense. It’s someone else’s job.

For years I’ve listened to professing Christians say, “That’s not my gift!” Making money has not been my gift, either. But once I had a family, I sure had to support it. I had an obligation to support that family, and when I came to Christ I became part of another family. And that family grows by continually adopting new members. And it costs something to do that.

Loving the Weak

“QNow concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

“Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

“However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” I Corinthians 8:1-13.

Paul begins by talking about knowledge inflating our egos, and how it is more important that God knows you as someone who loves Him. Then he shifts over to how your knowledge can embolden you to show off how strong your faith is by eating food sacrificed to idols.

When I was a brand new Christian and I came upon this passage, I wondered, “When am I going to run across this situation today?” Then I went to try out an Indian restaurant. When my meal came out, the waiter cheerfully informed me that every day they sacrifice the food to their gods. I had to laugh. I also ate it.

Although this issue seldom confronts us in this way, it is part of a group we could call, “Things that don’t matter, but some people will have a problem with.” I think of things like having a glass of wine or a mug of beer, or smoking, vaping, buying lottery tickets, and other things that only become a problem when done to excess. Some people are afraid to do these things because they feel they are inherently sinful. And if you flaunt your knowledge that they aren’t, it may goad people into violating their conscience, uninformed though it may be. For you, that cigar is not an issue. For another, he may have to harden his heart to smoke it. And that is why Paul was willing to go vegan in the presence of his brothers who feared that “meat is murder.” He loved them enough to honor their consciences with them.

Happiness Now

“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.” 1 Corinthians 7:17-24.

Most of this chapter is about marriage, and whether or not it is good to seek a spouse. But here in the middle is the nub of it all: be content to obey God’s commands, no matter what your station in life. Where God has placed you in life is much less important than what you are doing while you are there.

Here in America, where we have more opportunities to change our fortunes, and create our own lifestyles than anywhere else in the world, we are so often discontent. It’s Iike we have too many choices, and we are always hoping the next goal will make us happy. “I’ll be happy when I get married…have a child…buy a house…the kids are in school…we’re making more money…are out of debt…when we’re retired…when we have grandchildren…when we die.”

The Bible has many accounts of God’s people finding favor while in captivity, being comforted by God in their low station in life. One of my favorites is a young girl who is not even named. Kidnapped by a pagan army and enslaved by their leader, she still has faith and compassion to share the good news of her God and His power.

“Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, ‘Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.'” 2 Kings 5:1-3.

God Owns You

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.

The founding fathers knew that we were endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. They also knew that all men were created equal, but their culture informed them otherwise, which is why they still had slavery. Today we are just as blinded to the truth because our culture informs us that we are endowed with many, many rights just because we want them. God is not even in the picture. That is why we have abortion. And no-fault divorce. And fatherless children. And gay marriage. And transgender children. I could go on.

We desperately need to remember that we are not the gods of this world. We have a God who created us, and then gave us authority to act on His behalf in this world. “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'” (Genesis 1:28). Instead, we seek to subdue one another on the Earth’s behalf, and empty it of its humans.

God created us. We did not create ourselves. And He gave us creative agency so we could subdue the Earth and fill it with good things. Then He will one day judge us and reward us for what we have done with it. You will not be judged by a jury of your corrupt, godless, self-serving peers. You will be judged by God, and by those who still act on His behalf. “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” (1 Corinthians 6:2).