Now I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. – 1 Corinthians 11:3
Read 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 and you’ll read a man stumbling all over his words.
I believe Paul knew treating women as subordinate to men was wrong. After all, he’s the one who said that in Christ there’s no slave or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female, but all are one (Galatians 3:28).
But there was that sexist tradition: women should wear head coverings. Some of the women in the Corinthian church, of Gentile origin, never wore such things. Wanting to keep unity and conformity, Paul maintained a tradition that ran counter to the liberative equality of the gospel.
To justify the unjustifiable, he just kept writing. It’s one of the most incoherent ramblings in the Bible. Having not really found a good argument to win his case, he essentially concludes with, “OK, this settles it, no more discussion.” (verse 16)
A sign that you’re not really sure of a belief or attitude is smothering it with words. It’s like smothering a poor cut of meat with gravy. You hope you make it taste better but, in the end, you still know that it doesn’t sit well on your palate.
(Sidebar: Anyone who sees politicians debate sees a lot of gravy being ladled out.)
Paul was trying to justify a tradition which, if viewed in the light of Jesus’ teachings and even in the light of the apostle’s other writings, he would have discarded.
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? What other traditions in the Bible would dissolve under the heat of “Love your neighbor as yourself”? And what traditions might we hold that should meet a similar fate?
You can’t discriminate against your neighbor and still fully love them.
7 thoughts on “MONDAY MEDITATION: Hold the Gravy (January 25)”
I agree with Jane’s remark, a good one. Is love a verb or noun, an action or a state of mind, or both?
“Wanting to keep unity and conformity, Paul maintained a tradition that ran counter to the liberative equality of the gospel.”
So, how do you account for Paul’s work with Lydia in Philippi? She was clearly the leader in that church, and if Paul did not acknowledge her freedom in Christ, that would never have occurred. I think there is a more basic question here: why did God create male and female? If there is no difference in terms of the roles that each sex is designed for, then why not create one androgynous creature?
Actually, Bill, that’s my point: the gospel puts everyone on an equal basis. One of the reasons the early church drew members was that it promoted an equality not found in Roman culture, including enabling women like Lydia to have leadership roles.
However, there are places where tradition still promoted a double standard, such as this passage in Corinthians. Other texts are where women should be silent in church and should be submissive/obedient to their husbands.
Does God intend for each sex to have a different and unique role in the family and in the community? If so, aren’t there some God ordained expectations which should be recognized and supported by the body of Christ?
I had never heard that passage interpretated that way before. Thank you for sharing.
Hi, Tom–Neat thing about the Bible is that there are always new discoveries! Hope all is well.