The following is one chapter from my book Lifestyle Decisions: Touchy Subjects, Gently Touched. By clicking on the video below, you may listen as my son, Nathan, reads the chapter aloud.
Was there a time in your youth when your frequent response to parental instruction was “Why?”
My dad was tolerant of that question if it reflected a genuine search for insight and intolerant if it mainly expressed resistance. I suppose God’s attitude is the same. Jesus said not to cast our pearls before swine. Pigs can’t appreciate pearls. They just trample them in the dirt. A resistant person may trample truth in the dirt.
Sometimes the parental response to “why” is “You wouldn’t understand” or “You’ll understand when you’re older.” Those answers annoyed me. They didn’t fit with my self-image. Of course, such an answer was probably correct.
A major issue stemming from these observations is whether we will comply with Biblical instruction which we don’t understand or appreciate. Perhaps we wouldn’t understand further explanation. Will our obedience be limited by our understanding?
I suppose God tolerates our “why” so long as our obedience is not contingent on our understanding. I believe that in some cases knowing the reason why is helpful.
I Corinthians 11: 1-16 contains instruction that our culture deems irrelevant to modern America. The verses prescribe a head covering for a woman who prays or prophesies. I think that means doing so in public.
The common response to that instruction is that it was only for a culture in which the lack of head covering identified an immoral woman. But the apostle doesn’t give that as a reason. Instead he supports his instruction with comments about angels and nature. Angels and nature haven’t changed. If I Corinthians 11: 17-34 (directions for the Lord’s supper) is not culturally conditioned, why should we think verses 1-16 are?
Recent trends suggest a reason for I Corinthians 11: 1-16. Our culture is rapidly adopting the belief that men and women are interchangeable. Many conclude (and impose the conclusion) that marriage can unite any combination of sexes. If one is dissatisfied with his sex, have an operation; to segregate restrooms is unconstitutional; fostering “stereotyped” role models is oppressive; and so it goes.
Could it be that Christians have unwittingly cooperated with the trend? It seems to me that God prescribed an emblem of sexual distinction. Isn’t it true that values are caught more than taught? People generally believe that whatever is common is the way it is supposed to be.
I think God intends that we subtlety teach our children that sexual distinctions are valuable and wholesome. I wish it were easier for our young people to associate what they see in church with what they read in Scripture.
I can understand that a Christian woman would not want to draw attention to herself by being the only woman in the room wearing a head covering. That’s my reason (or excuse) for not lifting my hands when we pray as assumed in I Timothy 2: 8. (Although I inwardly protest when we sing “We lift our hands before You as a token of our love” with nary a hand in the air). Maybe a group of women could agree together to wear a simple head covering to a prayer event. Perhaps they will, after a group of men agree together to lift their hands in prayer.
Am I consistent in my desire for simplistic commitments to Scripture? I don’t know. I don’t give money to every poor-looking man on a corner who asks for money. I don’t give to every Christian organization that sends a letter requesting money, in spite of Matthew 5: 42. I honestly don’t think that is what Jesus intended. No doubt many women honestly don’t think God wants their head covered when they publically pray or prophesy. “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.” Romans 14: 5
What if numerous people in our church took to hair coverings or uplifted hands? Would they be accused of majoring on the minors? Thought of as being “holier than thou?” Would the church split? (Let’s hope not. Proverbs 6: 16-19 says God hates the sowing of discord among brothers.) Let’s decide that such people will be accepted as simple disciples stumbling along in search of God’s will. Maybe they can help us.
It has happened time and again. Orthodox denominations slide into heresy. Christian colleges lose their collective Biblical convictions. Christian organizations become anemic. We need beware lest we do harm by ignoring Scriptures we fail to appreciate.