Have We Lost Our Way?

April 7, 2008

Yesterday, I taught a class on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, on the subject of head coverings. Really.

I cannot remember ever in my life hearing someone else teach this passage. What possible relevance could the subject of head coverings have for a 21st century American church? Why risk the controversy? Why bring up a difficult subject that may confuse a lot of people? And, above all, why teach the congregation that we may have been neglecting a command of scripture for generations?

The reason I taught the class is pretty simple. I am teaching a series on the book of 1 Corinthians. I suppose I could have skipped this topic. But elders are admonished not to shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God to the church. If I choose not to teach this passage, I cannot claim to have taught everything I have been called to teach. God devoted half a chapter in 1 Corinthians to this subject for a reason.

But if I teach a passage of scripture, I have no choice but to teach what I believe it says. So that is what I did.

What kind of reaction would you expect to receive from your congregation from a lesson like that? The response of our congregation was one of keen interest, appreciation, and a desire to study it further. After service, the auditorium was buzzing with conversations on the topic in every aisle. Of particular interest to me, two brothers who are native of other countries came up to me afterward expressing their appreciation that the subject has finally been addressed. They were raised believing this teaching. From their perspective, the American churches have lost their way on the topic of women. We have become saturated with the culture in which we live. The church is becoming more and more like the secular world.

We Americans are like frogs in a pot of water. As the temperature rises to the boiling point, we hardly notice. We don’t realize that the rising temperature will eventually kill us. To us, everything seems normal. But to these two brothers from other countries, the insidiously gradual secularization of the American church is obvious. We need to wake up to what is happening.


  1. Here is an article (a couple of years old) talking about a sort of grass roots movement advocating head coverings for women:http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2006-10-04-covering_x.htmThanks to quarter18 for the link.

  2. Dear Mr. Rouse,I was schocked when I read your blog about head coverings. I would like to come out of the closet. I am a woman who loves God very much and when I am praying in the morning and I am sure nobody will walk in on me I cover my head. I thought for sure there was something wrong with me but just this morning I was asking God to send me to some foreign country at least once in my lifetime so that I might wear a head covering in church. I feel more reverant when I pray like that. I also wanted to comment on your post a few days ago about Christian Unity and the different roles about women and men in the church. When I became a Christian I specifically chose a Church of Christ church to go to because I had read about the restoration movement. Needless to say we left the church when it split. The pastor and elders had irreconcilable differences. I was very close to the pastor’s wife and knew the elder’s wife and I have always felt that the division came about in large part due to these two women and a third woman, the leader of the women’s group. I think that the actual divisions in church could be due in part to the women leaders as well as the men. My heart has been quite broken over this and the lack of love and humility that is our Christian heritage when it comes to the body of Christ. I read in a sermon by Saint John Chrysostom written in approx. 480… …(He goes on to talk to the women and tell them to speak to the other women because they are part of the cause of division and then ends with)…..Wherefore I entreat you, endeavor henceforward both to resist nobly and to bring back those who have seceded, that we may with one accord lift up thanksgiving to God; for to Him belongs the glory for ever and ever. Amen. You can find the whole sermon at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf113.iii.iv.xii.htmlAnyways, I don’t understand why there are not more people crying out because of the terrible division in the body and the message it sends to unbelievers. Do you know why?In Christ,Michelle

  3. Michelle,I respect your desire to do what you believe is right regarding head coverings. I encourage you to find a congregation where you would be able to practice your conviction in public without being made to feel like an outcast. There are churches like that.I don’t know why more people are not moved to speak out and to do something about divisions in the church. I guess it comes down to the fact that we are all still sinners. We can pray and we can work for unity where we are. I think God will bring it about.

  4. Hey Alan,Very thoughtful post about a touchy subject. I appreciate that you were unafraid to talk about that verse. I think it is worse to avoid a verse in the interest of ‘unity’ than to speak and be perceived to be wrong. Fortunately, it sounds like folks there were relived to hear what you shared. That’s got to be a good feeling. Thank goodness for good elders like you.That said, I do not believe that we have lost our way as much as we are different. Different is not necessarily apostate, it is just different. It could be said that certain cultures never found their way as they allow female circumcision, polygamy (and even polyandry) and a variety of other things. I don’t think we can point to a culture in the present or past that has found its way or was somehow more on their way than we are. If the loss of orthodoxy measures how far we are lost, the weeks after Pentecost began our divergence. (And many elements of Jewish custom and law, including those clearly laid out in Scripture, were changed or abandoned.)The frog and boiling water analogy only holds when a practice you do not like has become more the norm, it does not apply to practices that have changed over time that we do like. Things that change over time that we do like can be compared to a journey or other positive imagery.My children will have different challenges than I did growing up. It’s tempting to say that they are in a worse culture than I was. Truth is, there are aspects of their culture that are ‘better’ than the one I grew up in. For me it ties in to how I understand the admonition of Solomon in Eccl 7:10 about old days.Just my nickel (inflation, you know). Thanks as always for a thoughtful blog.

  5. Dear Mr. Rouse, I think that one of the biggest mistakes Christians make is to identify with who they were before they were saved. For most Christians, a common thing for them to say when asked why they do the things they do is “I’m a sinner, and like Paul I do the things I don’t want to do.” I think this is not The Truth. I think we are not sinners. Yes, we have sin like it says in 1 John, and yes we were once sinners but we are no longer “Sinners”….we are Saints, we are Children of God, we are United with Christ, we are Loved by God, we are Citizens of Heaven. I but no confidence in the flesh but if it is The Truth like it says in Romans that I am not controlled by the sinful nature but am now controlled by the Spirit of God that lives in me then how can I possibly call myself a Sinner. If the sinful mind is hostile to God and those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God than what does he think of the ones who call themselves by the name Sinners. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I have sin, but I am not a Sinner. God said in Luke that the tax collector came and confessed that he was a sinner, and so did I one day, but thanks be to God he “went home Justified.” I just can’t help but to think that if we could quit thinking of ourselves as Sinners and think of ourselves as Saints then we might be able to fight the good fight. We are not the “Sinners” anymore we are the ones who have been Saved from Sin. One of my favorite bible verses is in Colossians “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” What do you think? Am I misinterpreting something? May you have peace and joy today, Michelle

  6. Maybe not a “capital S” Sinner, as you’ve put it, but we are all sinners in the sense that we still have the propensity to sin (Romans 7) and we still do sin (1 John 1:8). I think that explains why we have divisions as you pointed out.

  7. Dr. Mr. Rouse,Thank you for answering my questions. This is just the part that I don’t understand. I know what Romans 7 says, I just don’t understand why Romans 8 isn’t more important. Yes, we still sin but we have been set free and do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. It say’s.. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. Isn’t this what God does? This isn’t what we do but it is God controlling us if we have the Spirit of God. How then if God is in control that we could have the problems that we do?Thank you for answering my questions.In Christ,Michelle

  8. Michelle,Both Romans 7 and Romans 8 are both important. Romans 7 tells us about the problem, and Romans 8 tells us about the solution. They are two parts of the same message.We are viewed as righteous by God because of the blood of Jesus. (That is what Romans 8 is talking about.) But our flesh is still here, and we still sin (that is what chapter 7 is talking about). In this life, it is our duty to put to death the deeds of the flesh, through the help of the Spirit. That is what ties the two together. As 1 John 1:8-9 says, we still sin — but the blood of Jesus continually cleanses us from sin. So God continues to view us as righteous. The triumphal ending to chapter 8 is that, because of what God has done, we can look forward to the ultimate redemption with great confidence. Nothing can shake us because the only thing that really matters has already been accomplished.

  9. We’ve been talking about this here in Columbus and thought I’d throw in my own nickel.The truth is that we are both. God has made us saints, yet we still sin and are therefore sinners. We are caught in the middle of who we were and who God has made us. The challenge is that our sin is always before us, reminding us of who we were, yet God has made us saints. We must remember that that is who we are. It is a reality, though the reality of sin feels more real.Consider the coming HS graduations. When the tassel is moved from one side to the other, these kids with be graduates, but they will likely think of themselves still as students. It takes a mind shift to make the transition. In the same way, it takes a mind shift on our part to see ourselves as saints who sin rather than sinners who are sainted.There’s a great song by Casting Crowns that speaks to this. It’s called Somewhere In The Middle:Somewhere between the hot and the coldSomewhere between the new and the oldSomewhere between who I am and who I used to beSomewhere in the middle, You’ll find meSomewhere between the wrong and the rightSomewhere between the darkness and the lightSomewhere between who I was and who You’re making meSomewhere in the middle, You’ll find meJust how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all controlFearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common senseDeep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middleWith eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God who isBut will we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middleAre we caught in the middleSomewhere between my heart and my handsSomewhere between my faith and my plansSomewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing wavesSomewhere between a whisper and a roarSomewhere between the altar and the doorSomewhere between contented peace and always wanting moreSomewhere in the middle You’ll find meJust how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all controlLord, I feel You in this place and I know You’re by my sideLoving me even on these nights when I’m caught in the middleI hope taht helps.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: