Wayne's Worldview is a place to share my unique perspective of the world as formed from my interpretation of the scriptures and my experience as a Christian. As a pastor, I am asked a lot of questions about current issues, life dilemmas, personal problems, politics, biblical interpretation...etc.I offer these "How I see it" thoughts in effort to challenge people to think about their worldview, and to stimulate good conversations that will help us become more whole.
Welcome to the conversation.
Welcome to the conversation.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Dressing for Worship
This post is in response to a question: "OK so I have been reading 1 Corinthians 11 over and over and I don't get the whole covering your head thing. We don't do it today but should we? Whatever wisdom you may have to share on this would be great! Thanks" Disclaimer: My answer is slanted toward women,because a woman asked me the question. For me this is an opportunity to highlight the importance of CONTEXT in the study and interpretation of scripture. When you read a passage that you don't understand, it is helpful to first ask yourself "what particular application the author (in this case Paul) has for the recipients of the letter (in this case members of the Corinthian church). Corinth, a coastal Grecian city about 50 miles South of Athens, was a place that had “temples for all the gods" (Greek Mythological ones), and the goddess of Aphrodite was the largest, most popular one. Hers was the largest temple in the world at the time. She was known as the great Olympian goddess of beauty, love, pleasure and procreation. She was depicted as a beautiful woman usually accompanied by the winged Eros (Love)- the cupid like character with the bow and arrow. She is the one usually depicted in classical sculpture and frescoes in the nude, with others adoring her beauty. Her temple was serviced by “courtesans”, who in that day were politely called "Guest-loving girls.” Similarly, we respectfully call a prostitute a: "call girl" or "escort". Understanding the context of Paul's letter is crucial to its interpretation. Paul is writing to a group of people who live in a sexually promiscuous pagan culture, world famous to sailors and traveling salesman. Historically, the Corinth of Paul's day was a cosmopolitan center for empire-wide commerce. Due to the pluralistic culture of the city, it was home to many peoples and religions. Corinth was famous for its shrines and temples, not only of Aphrodite, but also Poseidon; Apollo; Athena; Hercules; Jupiter; Isis,...etc. Worship of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was aided by more than a thousand prostitutes in service to the temple by day and city by night. An unveiled woman in Corinth was a servant of Aphrodite, otherwise known to us, as a prostitute. The abundance of pagan life in Corinth presented many problems for the church, some of which Paul specifically addressed in his letters. There, Christians existed as a minority in a sea of pagan Roman beliefs, as well as other Eastern religions. Living in this kind of culture led to loose morals because most of the church members were new converts to Christianity. In fact, the expression: "To Corinthianize" literally meant - to induct someone into promiscuous sexual debauchery and drunkenness. Similarly, a word fashioned from the name of a city still in use today that is our term "to Sodomize", which bears its name from the biblical city of Sodom that describes violent homosexual rape. In Corinth, the sexual practices were strongly associated with worship and service to the many pagan deities. These practices were the norm, not the exception. In short, Corinth was Sin City. Las Vegas, New Orleans and Los Angeles may someday be as immoral as Corinth. This being understood, Paul’s issue had to do with distinguishing Christians, from their pagan surroundings. To paraphrase, Paul was saying ‘We don’t worship God with an orgy. Instead, we are to honor God with our bodies (second half of 1 Cor 6). We do not celebrate the supper by getting drunk and stuffing ourselves with food (latter part of Chapter 11).’ So we need to understand that the reference to a particular hairstyle or dress is addressing a much deeper issue, than personal style or ritual. Paul’s concern was that the Corinthian Christians were not to worship God as they had their pagan deities. They were to be intentionally set apart, because when they dressed in a particular way, they were making a statement about themselves and God. With the context of the scripture understood, now we can do the work of translating the meaning into our cultural context. In the US, we have much liberty and freedom. We can wear whatever we want. But, would it be pleasing to God for us to dress the same as prostitutes, because we have the liberty to do so? Obviously not. We have more instruction on dress from 1 Tim 2:8-10, which instructs women who lead worship to dress modestly. Why? Because when we worship God, our attention is supposed to go to God, not to the body of the woman who is leading worship.(This is the reason many church choirs wear robes- by the way) Does God know the nature of men? I think so. Similar instruction is given in 1 Peter 3:1, 3-4. Can you imagine the mixed messages sent in a Christian worship setting for a male first time visitor who sits next to a woman dressed like one of the “guest loving girls” of the Temple of Aphrodite? I guarantee you he would not be hearing the sermon! Remember that Paul is writing to real people, and these are real world issues they were dealing with. Because God’s word is timeless, it also speaks into our culture. I want to get very practical, because that is what Paul was doing: “Women- It's fine to dress sexy for your husband, but your body is not for public display, especially in the context of a worship service to God." Paul includes teaching on marriage in the midst of dealing with these other pagan ideas. Worshipers of the gods did not have sexual boundaries like those who worship the the living God of Christianity. When a woman dresses to draw attention to her sexuality what response is she likely to stimulate? Attention from those who desire to have sex with her either literally or in fantasy. A woman can be attractive and dress beautifully, without putting the focus on her sexuality. Again, speaking plainly: Sexy dress in our culture includes - bare midriffs; bellybutton jewelry; short skirts; low cut blouses; low rider jeans; thongs and other undergarments that are intentionally made visible; some makeup applications; tattoos in the small of the back; tight fitting clothing ...Etc. While it might seem obvious that these dress styles draw attention to one's sexuality, and not one's spirituality, dressing sexy has become acceptable to many Christian women. In our culture, like Corinth, dressing to express sexual promiscuity is then norm. Paul is saying, that this should not be the case, otherwise Christian women will be indistinguishable from pagan women, both in and out of church. A woman who dresses in such a way to arouse sexual attention of any man who lays eyes on them, is not honoring God with her body. So, Does God care how you dress? Yes. God cares how we dress, much more than we might imagine. Do we know how Jesus dressed? Not really.We do know how he he was clothed before they crucified him, (symbolic). We also know he took off his outer robe to wash the disciple’s feet (symbolic). Where is our attention drawn? It’s drawn to his actions, in obedience to the Father in Heaven for a spiritual purpose. Have you ever wondered why we have sculptures and paintings of many kings, philosophers, and nobles, but none of Jesus? His clothing style and appearance was not emphasized so that we would focus on his life, his teachings and his sacrifice. We should take care that the way we dress, does not distract others from the worship of God in all walks of life, not just in church.