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Question 168

Q: I’ve been criticized by close friends and relatives for not being in obedience to what the Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 11 regarding head coverings. I’ve even been considered “fallen by the wayside” by some. 

I desire to be in obedience to God’s Word, and am not really grounded on this. Why don’t I feel a strong conviction to wear a head covering? Can you tell me if this practice is, or is not, a fruit of salvation, and why?

Asked by: Marcy

A: Marcy, I want to thank you so much for writing, and I can just imagine how big this problem is to you because it involves your friends and it involves the Lord.

You want to do what’s best and you want to honor God, and I admire that. And let me simply say that I admire those who have the conviction that they should have head coverings and they follow through with it, even though it seems so contrary to today’s culture.

As I look at 1 Corinthians 11, I notice a couple of things. First of all, I think it refers to a local custom and not a universal mandate. It’s very interesting that it doesn’t come up in any of the other letters that the apostle Paul wrote, and I can only imagine that if it was a problem in Corinth, it would have been a problem elsewhere. But it seems to me that at Corinth it was a difficulty because Paul’s talking about a specific cultural situation. In those days, in certain contexts, women wore veils if they were married. And even in the Middle East today there are women who wear veils, and what that signifies is that they are saving themselves, their charms, and their beauty, and everything, for their husband and only for their husband.

And in Corinth there was this particular custom. If the women were to be unveiled, Paul says, they might as well shave their heads like the prostitutes used to do, evidently, in Corinth. The point is that a woman is to be in subjection to her husband, and wearing a veil was a sign of that subjection. Because clothing is a totally cultural matter, differing from culture to culture, I don’t think this particular custom carries over today, and I think that most Bible scholars would agree.

So continue to study it Marcy, follow your conscience, but I do not judge you because you don’t feel a strong conviction to wear a head covering. Very few women today do, and I don’t think they’re wrong.

Scripture references

  • 1 Corinthians 11

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