1 Cor 11:1-16 - Don’t let what you wear distract others in worship!
When I was in year 12, the trend was for ‘the blokes’ to grow our hair long – long and thick. Not a ‘mullet’ – that was for the boys next suburb up the train line; for us, it was pretty well untouched by any cutting implement. By the end of the year I had hair that would make my female friends envious. And my mum simply looked at me with a smile and said what my father was thinking – “you look like a girl”. In our passage from 1 Corinthians 11 today, Paul is not simply saying that we should give in to other peoples preferences when it comes to what we wear and what we look like in public worship; no, he is a little more nuanced than that. He is reminding people in Corinth that when they meet for worship they ought to be careful not to do or say things that will convey an unhelpful message. The issue is not that they all have to be the same – its that they have to make sure that their actions don’t cause others to connect unhelpful or hurtful things with what Christians do in worship. So, in the early days of the Corinthian church, long hair on men AND long hair on women that was not put up in a bun on the head, were both connected with sexual promiscuity. When leaders in the church gathering were prophesying or praying and looked that way, it caused onlookers to think that disrespectful people were leading worship. Such thoughts and conclusions would be unhelpful and distract people away from worship of God and possibly to either sinful thoughts of lust or of anger – and both were unhelpful and not glorifying God. On the positive side, our reading also makes it clear that women and men equally were encouraged to engage in leadership in the gathered community, remembering to do so in a respectful way.
What might it look like today for us to modify our behaviour at worship so we did not distract others or so that others did not misunderstand our actions or motives and think poorly of the gospel of Jesus because of such actions observed? Further, what would it look like today for you to imitate Paul as he imitates Christ? Prayerfully consider what God might be saying into your life and relationship today.