1 Corinthians 11:1-12 NKJV
11 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
2 Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. 6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. 7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man. 9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.
It was Roman custom that men went about in public with heads uncovered, while women covered their heads. In some cultures, this custom continues today. In others cultures the custom is the reverse, so that it is a sign of subjection to listen in church with one’s head uncovered, while it is a sign of authority to speak with one’s head covered. Paul urges the Corinthians to retain the custom of the times to not offend common propriety. He also urges it because the custom could serve as a reflection of the divine order: “The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (3). Head coverings could serve as a reminder that everyone—men and women—are under someone’s authority, which rightly understood is self-sacrificial service. A married woman lives under her husband’s self-sacrificial service. Her and her husband both are under Christ’s authority.
Since this was an apostolic rite that served decorum, women can use it or refrain from using it. It is an indifferent thing whether a woman covers her head in contemporary Western culture. It isn’t culturally proper or improper. This means a woman who covers her head for worship does not sin. Nor does a woman sin who worships with head uncovered.
But the principle remains: “The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (3). Christian husbands love their wives “as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Eph 5:25). Christian wives submit to their husbands “as the church is subject to Christ” (Eph 5:24), receiving their husbands’ self-sacrificial love. Living in love toward one another, we confess not only that Christ is our head, but that man and woman are not independent entities, but united in the Lord and under His self-sacrificial love. Living in this harmony we confess: “For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God” (12). Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, the Church’s head, help us to live faithfully in the order in which You have set us, whether or married or single, under Your authority and love. Amen.