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Communion in Corinth (Part 5)

  

A major theme throughout I Corinthians, chapters 8-11, is the importance of being a good example to all people within the Christian family and outside the family. The simple practice of social customs provides a continual opportunity to make deliberate, concerted efforts to avoid being offensive to others. God is honored by this carefulness when it is done from godly motives.

I Corinthians 10: 31-11:1 Williams Translation
So if you eat or drink or do anything else, do everything to honor God. Stop being stumbling blocks to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God, just as I myself am in the habit of pleasing everybody in everything, not aiming at my own welfare but at that of as many people as possible, in order that they may be saved. You must follow my example, just as I myself am following Christ’s.

The verses that follow in chapter 11 deal with customs of dress and wearing of hair; they fall between passages in I Corinthians that deal with eating, drinking, and the Lord’s Supper. Due to the context, it can be inferred that these customs (v. 2-16) are further ways in which believers can carefully avoid being offensive to others. Evidently, a woman in first century Mediterranean culture would be seen as morally loose if not wearing a veil. According to Paul’s explanations, such customs of differences between male and female appearance were logically derived from nature, as God made things. The purpose of Christians being attentive to veil wearing customs and hair length customs had to do with the theme (in I Corinthians) of avoidance of being offensive. It was not that Christians were being told to follow an exclusive dress code as a badge of religion; they were exhorted to refrain from calling attention to themselves by disregarding what was perceived as inappropriate in that society. The intention of Paul’s reminder was certainly not to provoke any controversies.

Application of these verses in modern times should be done carefully with regard to the intention conveyed by the context of I Corinthians. For example, using veils as a means to make a religious fashion statement in a culture in which veil wearing is not the norm is probably far removed from the intent of I Corinthians 11: 2- 16. A possibly more Biblical application of these verses might be that believers be modest and focus on being non- offensive in dress within cultural contexts today. Of course, there are many customs among many varying cultural norms in today’s world that one might consider. While one might be quite familiar with customs in one’s own culture, special learning might be appropriate if one is to travel, etc., so that unnecessary offenses are avoided. Verses 17-34 of chapter 11 of I Corinthians return to the major themes discussed in chapter 10, with a special emphasis on care regarding the Lord’s Supper.

to be continued…

8 Responses to “Communion in Corinth (Part 5)”

  1. on 28 Apr 2007 at 1:41 pmSean

    I have heard that not wearing a veil was an indication of sexual “loseness” as well but I have never seen or found a shred of evidence either from the early Christian writings, other historical writings, or archaeology that supports this claim. Have any of you come across any evidence that it was culturally offensive to have an uncovered head? Also, could you comment on the fact that Paul appeals to the order of creation (Adam & Eve) rather than culture for his reasoning?

    It seems that based on context that chapter 11 is concerned with explaining verse 3:

    1 Corinthians 11:3  But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

    The reason a man would uncover his head and a woman would cover her head is to demonstrate God’s ordering of authority.  The covering is a symbol of authority (1 Cor 11.10)

  2. on 28 Apr 2007 at 1:52 pmJohnO

    I’m wondering how we weigh what is perceived as “don’t be offensive”, with the clearly offensive activity of Jesus and Paul? Jesus was blatantly offensive to Pharisees. Paul was blatantly offensive to the rulers who imprison him, and idolaters of Diana. Stephen was blatantly offensive to the Pharisees who stoned him.

    It was not that Christians were being told to follow an exclusive dress code as a badge of religion; they were exhorted to refrain from calling attention to themselves by disregarding what was perceived as inappropriate in that society.

    I have to disagree. Christians most definitely called attention to themselves in the ancient world through their actions. They refused to bear arms. They forgave. They did not sue. They preached. They were persecuted. They celebrated the resurrection of Jesus each week. I don’t see here anything about blending into the world.

  3. on 28 Apr 2007 at 3:25 pmJoshua

    I see Christianity formatted as such a passive-aggressive railroad train that plowed through the once current suggestive lifestyes that were influenced by clothing, that yet should be involved with today’s lines of clothes we wear, and yet most believers subscribe to the average worldly code and disregard almighty God altogether.
    Muslim-Sheik-Jew and others etc.. Still have various ways of conforming there dress to tradition and respect for their beliefs.

    Christianity has no true format that is aligned with any strength for our clothing to be upheld. I see it as usually being a “user discretion” type of situation. I dont see anything in our culture (except for maybe sandals) that would represent us being different or traditional for the appearence of Christ.

    And I certainly see where Paul Washer comes from about Christianity being represented on t-shirts. The word needs to be spoken more than represented by even such clothing. Our worship must flow from the heart, no matter what tunic you bear.

  4. on 28 Apr 2007 at 3:43 pmKaren

    “A possibly more Biblical application of these verses might be that believers be modest and focus on being non-offensive in dress within cultural contexts today.”

    Amen. This is a pet peeve of mine when it comes to *our* culture. It would be so refreshing if people simply wore less revealing and slightly more formal clothing when going about their daily lives. I don’t want to see exposed midriffs on women or hairy men wearing shorts and muscle tees when I’m out to eat. And particularly in church, how about, at a minimum, ‘business casual’? And don’t get me started on all the awful, kitschy Christian merchandise….

  5. on 28 Apr 2007 at 6:41 pmPatty

    Christians may be offensive by living what they believe. They should look differently in the way they act . When I mentioned to a fellow worker that I do not vote she reacted in a horrified manner and I think that it offended her. I am very nice to her and I think she can handle our differences, which are many. We can try to be harmless as doves , some will be able to handle it and others will have a terrible time with us, . We need not cause another to be offended over non issues and certainly would be wrong for anyone to knowingly or unknowinly cause someone to be tempted because of something we do or something we wear.

  6. on 29 Apr 2007 at 10:05 amKen

    The point of being non-offensive in eating (and other customs) was not to make a big right/ wrong issue out of meat itself. It was so that people could be saved (10: 33, 9:19-21 of I Corinthians.) They did not change or water down the gospel message to avoid offending people. I would never advocate something like that; that is a different issue altogether. Ihope that is clear, John O. Maybe an analogy would help: Let’s say a believer at a wedding banquet has an opportunity to share the gospel message, but is pre-empted by his disregarding “good manners” at the table. The person is not interested in hearing from the Christian who chews with his mouth open, or overindulges in wine or licks his fingers, etc. Offensiveness, that could and should be carefully avoided, causes a lost opportunity to share what could lead to salvation.
    Sean
    Though I have also read about veil wearing and sexual looseness, I have not seen it documented in ancient writings, etc. The points you make about authority are certainly significant. I will attempt to address this later.

  7. on 03 Dec 2009 at 10:43 amYelnats

    How about dressing and conducting yourself to PLEASE God. If you obey the great two commandments – 1. Love God and 2. Love your neighbor I would think your dress and character should be acceptable to most Christian brothers and sisters.

  8. on 03 Dec 2009 at 3:18 pmMark C.

    How about dressing and conducting yourself to PLEASE God. If you obey the great two commandments – 1. Love God and 2. Love your neighbor I would think your dress and character should be acceptable to most Christian brothers and sisters.

    The trouble with that is that there are so many different opinions about what “pleases God.” Especially regarding dress, what is acceptable to one well-meaning Christian is offensive to another. And far too many Christians can be judgmental about such things. You can’t please everyone, nor can you live up to everyone’s idea of what pleases God. Didn’t James write about not judging people by what they wear? God looks on the heart.

  

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