Growing up a Brethren girl and marrying a Mennonite, I’ve had many opportunities to answer this question: why do you wear that thing on your head?
Here I will try to answer that question as pertaining not only to me, but to Plain folks in general. And I’d also like to acknowledge those of you who have not grown up with the heritage some of us have, yet have come to this same conclusion through the teaching of God’s Word and the promptings of His Spirit.
I recently taught this to our youth girls Sunday School class and I will try to portray it the way we studied it – Scriptural basis first and the reasons we believe it is a command of God, and then answering the most common reasons people give in opposition of the head veiling.
1. The Scriptural basis for this ordinance is in I Corinthians 11: 1-15. I will not post the entire Scripture here, but you can go here to read it.
2. We woman cover our heads as a sign of our submission to the authority God has placed over us. If you think this is some custom the men made up to exert their rights over women, then I suggest you dig a little deeper. Start at Genesis and read forward and you will see that everything has an order, including human relationships. Whether they be in the church or in the home. Christ Himself is under the headship of God the Father. At the Garden of Olives, He prayed, “Not my will, but Thine be done.” This was the prayer of a submitted heart.
If you still don’t believe me, pick up a book of history or government. For even in the secular world, there is a level of headship. Someone always answers to someone else – there is always someone submitting.
God knew without this order of headship, there would be chaos. It is His divine way of bringing peace and harmony to homes and churches. So in putting on my veil every morning, I am saying to God that I submit to the authority He has put over me.
3. Some call this a prayer covering because of verses 4 and 5 where it speaks of the covered head in prayer. Thus, they also suggest it only needs to be during worship services when a woman is praying. But a true Christian woman will also be praying and communing with God while doing the laundry, washing dishes, and changing diapers. See I Thessalonians 5:17.
In addition, Greek scholars have pointed out that the term “Let her be covered” (vs. 6) is in the present, active, imperative form. Thus giving the meaning “Let her continue to be veiled.”
Also, in vs. 17-18, Paul specifically begins instructions for “when ye come together in the church” and speaking of other ordinances such as communion. This strongly implies he had a broader context in mind when speaking of the head veiling.
4. So what about size? If you are of Plain folk background, you will know this is one that our churches struggle in. How big is too big and how little is enough to still call it a covering?
Firstly, remember what the purpose of the head covering is – a reminder that I have submitted to the authority God placed over me. This includes the church. And if the local church I have joined has a set size or pattern for my veiling, then I would do well to adhere to what they say. For in rebelling, I am going directly against what I have put the veil on for in the first place.
Secondly, this is called a head covering. Therefore, it should cover the majority of the head in whatever way your church has specified.
Thirdly, some would call this a symbol and in doing so, reduce the size to where it looks more like decoration than something meant to cover the head.
It is true that God is a God of symbols, types and shadows, etc. Yet in the laws laid down in the Torah, God was very specific in all His instructions. What if the high priest had said one year at Passover that the killing of the lamb was only symbolic and not meant to follow out to the letter of the law? What do you think God would have done?
True, it was symbolic of the blood Jesus would one day shed for the whole world. But that symbolism did not reduce the importance of the command to sacrifice the lamb in exactly the way Almighty demanded.
So it is for the symbol of the veiling. Because it is a symbol or reminder of my submission to authority, it does not take away from the importance of the command that it cover the head.
Now that I’ve covered our basic reasons for doing this, I will present the common opposition regarding this ordinance.
Question: I don’t wear a veiling because the Bible states that a woman’s hair is her covering in verse 15. So shouldn’t that count as having my head veiled?
Answer: If you take the time to study the original Greek text, you will find there are two different words for covering used in this passage. In verse 15, the Greek word covering is peribolaion, meaning “to be covered or thrown around one”. The word used prior to this is is katakalupto, meaning “to cover or hide; veil”.
So if you read this verse and insert the Greek definition for “covering”, it would say this: But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her “to be covered.”
Now this is the theological answer for this question. Here is the logical:
If a woman’s hair would be considered her covering, then what do we do with the man’s hair? For as his sign of submission, he is supposed to have an uncovered head. So if the woman’s hair would be the covering, then all men must have shaved heads, i.e: no hair, in order to show their submission to Christ – their head.
Question: Isn’t this just meant as a cultural custom of their day? We don’t feel it applies to us in the twenty-first century.
Answer: Paul inserts this command in the very same chapter that he does for communion. And you will find that most Christian churches regularly hold communion and feel it is of great importance. So why would you claim that the head veiling is not for today when it is listed exclusively in the same chapter as communion – which most feel is for today?
Some say verse 16 indicates this is only cultural. However, look at it closely and you will find it different.
“But if any man be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.”
When Paul was writing his epistles, he would address to that specific church the areas in which they struggled. The head covering most likely was one the Corinthian church was in danger of parting with. And Paul was admonishing them in this verse to not be contentious (full of strife; going their own way) concerning this ordinance. A church needs to be one of unity in heart and a contentious heart is one that is selfish and desires to go its own way.
Now you know why some women cover their heads. I believe the importance of this ordinance is fast slipping away among the “freedom” so often proclaimed in contemporary Christianity today. What they don’t teach is that true freedom comes from a heart that is wholly and completely submitted to the Lord and the teachings of His Word.
So how do we get it back?
Study the Word for yourself and then teach it to your sons and daughters. For they are the church of tomorrow!
Linking to Raising Arrows.