This is a follow-up to an article I recently wrote about beards. In that article, I alluded to wanting to write about women and long hair.
So here I go.
Before getting into that, however, I want to clarify something. Regarding my opinions on beards and long hair, I am not a hard-liner. My opinions are definite, fixed, and genuine. But that does not mean I am a legalist. Nor does it mean I am under any illusions that God judges men and women according to my whims.
That said, I have considered this and I have a view. And though it is not gospel, and nobody’s eternal soul hangs in the balance, so far as I know, I am nevertheless entitled to my opinion. What is more, I am not obligated to spare you from it by keeping it to myself or else watering it down. So there.
Moving on from qualifiers and disclaimers, I have already written about men and beards. If you did not catch my article on that subject, you can find it here.
Similar to my view on men shaving their beards, I think it a shame when women cut their hair short. Something is lost, or given up. Something is abandoned and discarded, and I do not just mean the hair itself.
Long hair represents femininity like beards represent masculinity. And more than merely being opposed to short hair on women, or men shaving, I believe we should be in favor of men growing their beards, and women growing their hair long as a way of embracing God’s glorious plan and design for men and women.
If a woman has long hair, it is her glory.
The Apostle Paul shares this view, so I am in good company. In his first letter to the church at Corinth, he writes:
“Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.”
To anyone who believes lady hairstyles are no business of gentlemen, read Paul here. Clearly, he proves otherwise in this passage from Corinthians.
And I agree with him. It is self-evident. Long hair on women fits. It is appropriate, yes. But more than that, long hair on women is fitting and lovely and it just makes sense. Long hair on women is beautiful, and lends a definite femininity and grace to them.
This is not to say that women with short hair cannot be beautiful, feminine, or graceful. But I think Paul says it right that long hair on women is glorious. Women have more glory with long hair than when they shear themselves.
I anticipate a challenge here that I as a man am weighing in on this. Even if Paul did, he was an Apostle. I am not.
Nevertheless, if Paul can write what I quoted above, why should I bite my tongue? There is a tendency in American churches today to not get into all this. If these passages are touched on, it is only most briefly.
But, according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV), “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
“All Scripture” must mean this passage too.
Paul was not a feminist.
We come then to a fork in the road. Either both the Apostle Paul and I have every right to weigh in on this, or neither of us do. And there certainly are Christians who take the latter position.
A man I know was out of state one time visiting the church of his relatives. Something Paul wrote in one of his letters came up in a sermon or Sunday School lesson. So the teacher or pastor prefaced his quoting of Paul with something like a trigger warning. Paul, he cautioned the parishioners, wrote some pretty sexist things.
So half the New Testament which Paul wrote must be taken with a grain of salt. And why? Because Paul was not a feminist, and does at several key points contradict the whole premise of modern feminism.
As Christians, this is a dangerous position to take. In effect, a philosophical premise – feminism, in this case – is held in higher esteem than the Bible. The Scriptures are being weighed and measured according to the wisdom of man. And where the wisdom of man contradicts the truth of God’s Word, the wisdom of man is preferred over what God said. But how can man be more reliable than God?
In our Christian faith and practice, there can hardly be a slipperier slope or sandier foundation on which to build.
Should we not choose God’s Word over man’s wisdom when the two contradict? And if some opinion of ours, or some confident assertion of someone else, or some subtle bias in broader society is at odds with what the Bible says, it makes more sense that God would be reliable and we the ones in error than the other way around.
“Let God be true though every one were a liar.”
The immediate threat is not legalism, but treating gender as merely a social construct.
I will clarify again, as I did on the topic of beards. There is no reason to believe God will call us to account for how we grow our hair out. But that does not mean our hair is inconsequential. If our choices in fashion and personal grooming were entirely irrelevant, Paul would not have brought the topic up in Corinthians.
To be sure, we can go too far the other way. Some people become legalistic on these points and believe that a man who shaves his beard or a woman who cuts her hair short and wears pants is somehow sinning. That is not my view. And we would be wrong to assume that just because Paul brings the topic up that this means we should obsess over it.
Yet we American Christians, and me personally even here, have a long way to go before we must worry about going off the deep end in that direction. Right now, we have more to worry about in supposing anything goes, or that our decisions are entirely a matter of personal preference, and that there are no standards against which to measure. The immediate threat is supposing gender is merely a social construct, arbitrary and subjective, and that men and women are interchangeable.
Toward the end of guarding against that immediate threat, I believe we should take note of what the Bible says about gender expression. And in the interest of not merely being against Progressivism, atheism, sexual immorality, and the LGBT movement, we Christians should also be for things. It seems good to me that we should be eager to embrace the positive things the Bible says about gender and sexuality, and to love those things and live them out for God’s glory and our benefit.
There are three ways to respond.
Toward that end, I believe there are at least two ways to respond to what Paul says about gender. And at most there are three.
The first way is to change the topic from gender expression to legalism. Many do this, dismissing any and all talk of applying Biblical standards as judgmental and self-righteous.
The second way is to look on the bright side. We can choose to embrace the reassuring comfort that God created us male and female. God must, after all, have a plan and purpose for masculinity and femininity.
However, if we are conflicted about these first two – if the anxiety of either placating or challenging the feminists and legalists is too great – there is a third way. This third way is to respond with apathy and indecision.
Yet if there are two options here, only one of them really honors God. And if there are three ways to respond, two of them are self-absorbed and give no meaningful consideration to the admonition that we Christians are the temple of the Holy Spirit and should honor God with our bodies.
This is not true because of the actions, as if God is honored by our merely checking boxes. Rather, one attitude and frame of mind toward gender honors God by placing a high value on what his Word says. The other only cares about what we and other people want.
You cannot dismiss what Paul says by claiming Jesus fulfilled the law.
Though I risk confirming charges of legalism which will inevitably follow, I would refer to something written in the law God gave to Moses. In Deuteronomy we read:
“A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to Yahweh your God.”
Whatever this meant to the original audience, what should it mean to us today?
This is a difficult question to answer. Our culture has for the past century systematically worked to dismantle any and all assertions that anything should be reserved to men alone or women alone. And if 100-years from now, the LGBT agenda has succeeded in getting most men to wear mascara and dresses, answering questions like this will only get harder.
Yet the principle here in Deuteronomy must be timeless and should not be dismissed or discarded wholesale just because we live in a confused day and age.
For instance, I may not read in Deuteronomy any commandment against men wearing pink. However, if in my culture pink is “a girl color”, I will not wear pink. If only women wear dresses in my culture, I will not be caught dead in a dress.
Notice a difference between this passage in Deuteronomy and what Paul writes to the Corinthians, though. Where Deuteronomy gives a commandment in principle without specificity on which clothes go to men or to women, Paul is more specific. Long hair is appropriate on women and not on men. All we lack is a specified length of hair to call “long.” There clearly is a standard, however.
Not only this – Paul is writing in the New Testament. So you cannot dismiss what Paul says by claiming Jesus fulfilled the law.
Perhaps Paul was merely stating his opinion.
Someone else may say that Paul was merely stating his opinion. Yet I would point out the great danger in that path. Suppose we dismiss what Paul says about gender as merely his opinion. How do we stop short of dismissing or discounting what Paul says about Jesus, grace, and eternal salvation, or the resurrection of the dead? Are those things also just his opinion? And how can you tell?
This then is the same problem we encounter when we start niggling away at the literal truth of Genesis. Did God create everything in six days and rest on the seventh? Genesis clearly says that is how it happened. But if we say that days no longer mean days, or that God did not create by speaking so much as by setting in motion the process of natural selection and evolution, then we have abandoned, or begun to abandon, the whole idea that the Bible is God’s infallible Word.
But let us suppose Paul was just stating his opinion when he said long hair on men is their shame, but long hair on women is their glory. So what? Paul was an Apostle. He wrote half the New Testament, for crying out loud. Even just his opinions should carry quite a bit of weight with us. And if I had to choose, I should sooner take even his word for it and live accordingly than compromise with those who say gender is merely a social construct.
Most things in life are a matter of personal preference.
God gives us liberty in most things. Even when it comes to good and evil, I believe God gives us the choice. However, many, or even most things in life are a matter of personal preference.
When someone offers you a hot dog, do you put relish on it? Whatever you decide in such moments, you never – I hope – suppose you are deciding something of eternal significance.
Perhaps you will react to this article the way I would if someone made a moral dilemma out of relish.
Yet I want to restate this again. The Bible is not silent on gender expression. And maybe we Christians have taken more of the bait than we realized if we suppose gender expression in hairstyles is completely arbitrary.
After all, did the Satanic lie start with lesbian bishops performing gay weddings in churches and marching at pro-choice rallies, or did it start with supposing what we do with our bodies is entirely up to us and none of God’s business?
Yes, many questions are like pickles on your hamburgers or relish on your hot dog. But not all questions. And even there, with pickles and relish, Paul also writes. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV)
And, indeed, Paul writes earlier in the same letter something else which should temper our attitude toward personal grooming.
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”