1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV)
1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
JB's application: In 1 Corinthians we see that Paul is trying his best to follow Christ's example and urging the people in his church to follow his example - "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (v1) We all need people in our lives, experienced followers of Jesus, who can model for us what it looks like practically to follow Jesus Christ. They include your church leaders, your mentors outside of church, or people in your small group. Of course, no one gets it perfectly right, but that doesn't mean you can't learn something from them. Take the good things you see from their lives and emulate them. Often times incarnation (Christ living in us) is first sparked by imitation (seeing how others follow Jesus and following their example).
1 Corinthians 11:5 (NIV)
5 And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head--it is just as though her head were shaved.
JB's application: What's all this talk about head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16? Should women today have their heads covered when they go to church?
Back in Paul's time, apparently it was customary both in churches as well as in Corinthian society in general for women to wear head coverings. It was a way for ordinary woman to distinguish themselves from female prostitutes in Corinth who shaved their heads as a sign of devotion to the Greek goddess Aphrodite. So generally speaking, a woman's hair was something that she did not expose in public, unless she was a prostitute.
Now in Paul's church in Corinth some of the women were taking off their head coverings while leading the church in prayer or prophecy. Maybe it was their way of expressing their new found freedom in Christ. Maybe it was just hot. Regardless of the reason, people in the church were confused by this and asked Paul if this was okay. Paul said no. His point was that by publicly taking off their head coverings (something that women did not do in that culture unless they were prostitutes), that female leader was distracting and confusing the people in the church.
Not only was it distracting and confusing for people in the church, Paul says that by taking off their head coverings, these women were also dishonouring their husbands. Keeping her head covering on was one way that a Christian woman in Corinth could show that she was submitting to God's authority and her husband's authority over her.
How can we apply this passage to our lives today? Many scholars consider this passage one of the hardest passages in the Bible to interpret. But here are some things we can learn from this passage:
- Remember that how we act and even the way we dress can have an impact on others. Especially if you're trying to lead people to Christ, act and dress in ways that don't distract and confuse people. Instead, act and dress in ways that allow people to relate to you. In other words, unless there's a real need to be different, be normal! As Christ's disciples called to lead others to Jesus, let's be different in all the good and necessary ways, but not in ways that confuse and distract people from what's most important.
- Just as Jesus submitted to His Father, let's be submissive to the authorities God has placed over us. Remember this: submission does not mean inferiority. Jesus submitted to the Father out of love and humility so that there would be unity and harmony starting from the top down. But Jesus is not inferior to the Father.
In the same way, when the Bible tells wives to submit to their husbands, it's not because women are inferior to men. Men and women are both made in God's image and are equally precious in God's sight; they just have different roles to play in a marriage and family.
Wives, remember this, (to borrow a line from Pastor Jon Courson) you are not your husband's "compete-r", but your husband's "completer". Your role as a help mate to your husband speaks of the strength, the value and the ability God has placed in you. In fact, when Genesis 2:18 uses the term "help mate" to describe the role of the wife, it's the same term the Old Testament uses to describe God as our helper. So your role in your husband's life is to be the helping presence of God in your husband's life, a reflection of the Holy Spirit to your husband. May you and your husband together give God great glory in how you serve one another and relate to one another.
Praise God. When we submit to God and to one another in the ways His Word tells us to, the result is peaceful relationships, a strong and united body, and maximum love. In an ironic way, submission to God-given authority is one of the most powerful things you can do. It's submission to God's design, not rebellion against it, that sets us free.