Monday, 10 November 2014
Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 1 Corinthians 11:14
Paul brings in “nature itself” as a witness to his instruction. This is based on his previous verse which called out, “Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?” Just as it was obvious to those in Corinth concerning that issue, so this one is obvious as well. His words about natural revelation are that “if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?”
If one is a great traveler, they will come to the conclusion that wherever he goes and in whatever culture he finds himself, it is normally rather easy to distinguish men from women. One doesn’t travel to the heights of Tibet and find this to be untrue. Nor does one travel to the deepest jungles of Africa and find it to be untrue. Men and women are usually easily distinguished between one another. And the general distinction is that of hair. How the hair is worn generally makes the first notable distinction between the sexes.
Paul’s observation, based on nature, is again “if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him.” This thought however needs to be taken and contemplated with extreme care lest a discouraging line of legalism enter into one’s theology. First, the natural question should be, “What is to define ‘long hair’ on a man?” Is it more than a marine-style jarhead haircut? Is it more than one inch? Is hair on the collar a dishonor? What if hair goes to past the neck? What if…. what if (perish the thought!) the hair is found to touch the shoulders? Just what is the definition of “long hair?”
It must be misunderstood that the Bible never contradicts itself. However, the following people were Nazirites from birth (a consecration detailed in Numbers 6) and never cut their hair throughout their entire lives – Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist. Amos 2:12 indicates there were other Nazirites in Israel, and even Paul took such a vow in Acts 18:18. If some of these men of God never cut their hair and others didn’t cut it for extended periods of time, then how can Paul’s words be reconciled with hair that goes past the top of the ear (as so many legalistically minded people seem to define “long hair”)?
Having long hair, in and of itself, cannot be a shame or dishonor to a man because men of God were known to have had long hair. Therefore, this would be a contradiction in the Bible. Understanding this, it must be the appearance of the long hair which is dishonoring to his head. If a man looks like a woman, then he has passed from manliness to femininity. This, in and of itself then, would be dishonoring to him. It would be in then line with the precept found in Deuteronomy 22:5 for example –
“A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.”
Men are men and women are women. God intends for men to look like men and He intends for women to look like women. Further, the actions of the man are to be manly actions and the actions of a woman are to be feminine. These concepts are stated implicitly throughout Scripture. Therefore, it must be that Paul is referring to an appearance of femininity concerning long hair in this verse. If long hair causes a man to appear to be a female, then he has assumed an appearance which would place him in a point of subjection as described in the earlier verses of this passage. But man is to be under the Headship of Christ, thus honoring Him directly.
If a man has a beard, no matter how long his hair is, he will certainly not be mistaken for a woman. However, if the long hair on a man becomes the primary point of identifying him as a female, then he has brought shame upon himself.
Life application: Who decides in your church how long your hair can be? If someone is walking around with a ruler and checking length, he probably has more serious problems that should be watched. Legalism is a poison which can only bring about a congregation full of neurotic people. In all precepts, taking the time to think the issue through from a “let Scripture interpret Scripture” viewpoint will generally lead to healthy, happy congregations.
What a joy! Thank You O God for the freedoms You have given me in Christ. Way too often I hear people of the world claiming that faith in Him is some type of bondage or some type of joy-limiting walk. But the closer I get to You, the more freedom I find. Surely a person can serve only one master and I know that sin is a raging, destroying enemy. But You are a kind, gentle Lord. The further I am from sin, the closer I am to perfect freedom. Thank You for the gentle yoke of Christ. Thank You for the wide and expansive pastures to which You are leading me! Amen.