We’re working through a particularly challenging passage in 1 Corinthians (11:3), but why is it so challenging? It’s about headship, head coverings, and hairstyles. Aren’t there other passages that invite us into this kind of struggle? Probably Love your neighbor’ should be a major sticking point, or “Love your enemies” even more. What about the rich young ruler who is told to sell all of his stuff? Blessed are the poor in spirit?!? Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness? Why don’t these give me butterflies the size of birds, like this verse in Corinthians?
Maybe it’s because we’ve heard them so many times, we’re sort of numbed to the weight of what has actually been said. I’ve heard “Let It Be” 1,000 times, and it doesn’t break my heart anymore. So maybe that’s it, but I also wonder if it’s because we don’t take them quite as seriously as we could. This is a conversation worth having with ourselves, with each other, and especially with God, but it’s one we’re not going to have today.
This principle of headship is in our laps, what are we going to do with it? In fact, what do we do with any and all challenging, perhaps disagreeable, controversial, polarizing ideas and circumstances in our lives? What if your co-worker thinks very differently than you do? What if your sister voted for the “wrong” candidate? What if the person next to you in church holds a different interpretation or understanding of a parable of Jesus? What if she thinks a man is the head of a woman, or what if he doesn’t? What do we do with these treacherous areas between us in all relationships?
I know the Bible is teaching us about these principles – now, learning what, exactly, they’re teaching us is why we read and study, and probably changes over time, as we do. We don’t read the same book or step in the same river twice. These aphorisms, I suppose, are misused in this case. The book and the river remain the same, we do the changing. It’s a different Chad that reads that same book, a different foot that steps in the same river. Either way, you understand.
But the Bible is also teaching us how to handle the material, and how to handle the material in community. Do you think for a second all of the people at the church in Corinth were in lock step on every point? Actually, I bet Paul and Timothy (his apprentice) had conflicting ideas. We know the disciples did, they saw different behaviors, took different meanings from the words of Jesus. What do we do then? What if they disagreed with Paul, like we sometimes do?
The thing that drives us apart isn’t a divisive issue, it’s usually how tightly we hold those issues. We grip them so pridefully, tying our identity and worth to our right-ness.
What if we’re wrong? Does that exclude us from the love of Jesus? Certainly not. And what if they are wrong? They are still children of the Loving God. According to the 8th chapter of Romans, nothing at all can separate us from His love.
Of course theology is important, but as Paul is teaching us about what we believe, he is also giving lessons about how we believe. In the next chapter, he’ll tell us that the specific tenets of our faith, if they aren’t held in love, are just noise. Headship, homosexuality, abortion, war, money, materialism, authority, submission, sex, the list just goes on and on, we’re bound to hold different perspectives. I’m convinced the issues don’t divide, it’s us, when we stop talking and refuse to sit down together as family.
I’ve seen a new dynamic at the Bridge, one that allows us to walk right into these topics without hesitation. It’s why my mood is one of excitement instead of fear or trepidation. What we get to see on a weekly basis is how it can be, where the people are more significant than our fragile egos. It’s a beautiful picture of a Gospel identity, where hands are held, and the only name that matters is Jesus.