This post discusses an alarming disregard for the Word of God among Christians.
Disregard for the Word of God: why and how
Why do some Christians have a disregard for the Word of God? No need to act surprised. Some do. You and I both know it’s true. But “why” may not be the best word to use. “How” may be better. How can they do this? More precisely. How can they have a disregard for the Word of God and still be a Christian? Can a mallard be a mallard and refuse to flap his wings or get his feet wet? Perhaps he can. But it’s not normal. If you’ll excuse the pun: a mallard like that is a quack.
Sure. As Christians, we can all improve on our obedience and submission to Scripture. But there are some who actually reject or ignore what the Bible teaches. They display a shameless disregard for the Word of God. This is alarming at best. What is more troubling: it may mean there is no one inside who is giving them a desire to live out the directions He gives in His Word. Like zombies, who don’t respond to any inner life-giving stimuli because there are none.
So we’ve got the why and how down. Now let’s look at the when and what.
When and what
So when do Christians have a disregard for the Word of God? And what in Scripture do they commonly disregard?
Unfortunately, examples can be almost endless.
But here are a few. . .
“Let not the wife depart from her husband. . . and let not the husband put away his wife” (I Cor. 7:10 and 11).
“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted to them to speak; but to be under submission, as the law also says” (I Cor. 14:34).
“Does not nature itself teach you, that if a man wears long hair, it is a dishonor to him?” (I Cor. 11:14).
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and all that are in authority” (I Tim. 2:1 and 2).
Believe me, there are many more.
Just as many reasons
And we have just as many reasons, don’t we, for not doing them? I can hear them now. Can you? Listen. They are like the thunder of rolling hooves over the Serengeti. (It would be hard to miss that.) Looking for reasons not to do these things? Here are some. . .
We can say they don’t apply to us, they’re cultural or outdated, they’re not fair, or “No one knows the trouble I’ve seen.” We can take refuge in our “Christian liberty.” Maybe we don’t like the president. Who wants to pray for a president you don’t like. It may be unpopular to mention his name anyway. A name like Trump. The excuses are endless and may even sound reasonable: “The people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God” (I Sam. 15:15).
God isn’t interested in our excuses. Instead, He looks at it like John. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (III John 4). Walking in truth is a cut above simply saying you believe something.
Drawing a name out of a hat and examining a common disregard for the Word of God
Now I’m going to throw all these verses we make excuses for into a “hat” and pick one out for closer examination. What do you know! I drew I Corinthians 11:14: “Does not nature itself teach you, that if a man wears long hair, it is a dishonor to him?” A good choice. This is a good example of a common disregard Christians have for the Word of God.
You have no idea how many CDs I have had of Christian rock and metal bands who wear long hair. I’m talking about men. I enjoy the music. But I always wonder how they so easily brush aside this Biblical text every time they brush aside their hair. Is it any reflection on their walk with God? Only God knows their hearts. But you wonder how many other places in their Bible fall to the same fate?
You can’t hide something like long hair. And obviously, they have no intention of hiding it. They seem to actually have a sense of pride in it. You can look at this in different ways. But it is, fundamentally, a nose-thumbing, no matter how “subtle” or “unintended” it may be, or how pious they may come off. They are openly displaying a disregard for the Word of God in Paul’s letter (I Cor. 11:14). So where do we start “plugging in” to his letter? At verse 15? With the Word of God, you can’t just pull the plug and plug it back in at your pleasure. That sort of thing might make you think you are God! Or at least, that you are in control. Now, that’s scary! At Halloween or any other time.
Whether it is intentional or not, their long hair expresses defiance. God’s Word is clear. “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness as the iniquity of idolatry” (I Sam. 15:22,23).
This is what Paul is referring to in I Corinthians 11:16. “But if anyone seems contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.”
Metal bands, move over
But not only men in Christian metal bands wear long hair. Some pastors do too.
Most of us agree it would be hard to be a communist and not follow the teachings of men like Marx, Lenin, and Mao Zedong. It is equally questionable if a person can be a Christian and disregard this teaching of an apostle of Christ.
We will return to this subject in a moment.
A light to our path
How serious are we as Christians about living our lives according to the Word of God? Psalm 119:105 says, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Whenever we turn off this light or refuse to let it direct our steps, we are in effect walking in darkness. Without it, we don’t know what path we are on. And we are most likely on the wrong one. John said we don’t know where we are going because the darkness blinds our eyes (I John 2:11). You can end up anywhere without a light.
In light of this, help us, Lord Jesus, to understand the significance of I Corinthians 11:14 and see how it relates to us today.
But I want to be clear, in the starting gate. I am not in favor of a casual disregard for the Word of God, at any time, just because it does not go along with our notions or personal point of view.
So, what about I Corinthians 11:14? I discussed this in an earlier post you may have read. To answer the question as to whether or not it has any bearing on us today, I will ask two questions. 1. Who is Paul? And 2. What is nature?
I’m going to keep it simple.
1. Who is Paul?
Everyone knows Paul wrote this by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Right? If we don’t believe that, it casts doubt on our faith, in the first place. But “inspiration,” in this case, some are inclined to marginalize or at least look for ways to take the edge off the Sword.
So who is Paul, anyway? Who does he think he is, writing something that annoys men with long hair?
Why not let Paul himself tell us who he is?
In I Timothy 2:7 he says, “I was ordained [by Jesus Christ and God the Father: see 1:1] a preacher and apostle, a teacher of nations in faith and truth.” Jesus has given Paul to us as a teacher (Eph. 4:11). So his instructions, whatever they may be, are meant to give direction to our lives. And inform our faith. You might think of them as a “flashlight” we take with us when we walk through the darkness. If we don’t want to listen to him, fine. So much for faith and truth.
Stumble where you like.
But there is another problem.
A breakfast buffet
We like to be selective, don’t we, when it comes to Paul’s writings? Or God’s Word in general, for that matter. Unfortunately, we can’t be selective unless we are in line at a breakfast buffet. The Word of God is not a smorgasbord.
What Paul says about his teachings
If Paul is a teacher Jesus has given us in matters of faith and truth, do you think his teachings would have any authority over us? It’s a no-brainer answer time.
It’s interesting to see what Paul himself says about his teachings.
Take a look.
“If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge the things I write to you are a commandment of the Lord” (I Cor. 14:37). “Therefore brothers, hold on to the traditions you were taught, whether through word or our epistle” (II Thess. 2:15). “If anyone does not submit himself to our word through the epistle [a letter], take notice of that man” (II Thess. 3:14).
“Meditate upon these things; give yourself completely to them, that your progress may be evident to all” (I Tim. 4:15; cf. I Kgs. 2:3). “Have as your model [or standard] of sound words, those which you have heard from me in faith and love that is in Christ Jesus” (II Tim. 1:13). “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:9). “The things which you have heard from me, entrust to faithful men who will also be able to teach others. . . put them in remembrance of these things” (II Tim. 2:2,14).
What Peter says about Paul
While we’re on the subject, what does Peter have to say about Paul’s writings? “Just as Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, speaks in all his epistles concerning these things, in which are some things hard to understand, that those who are unlearned and unstable twist and distort as also the other Scriptures to their own destruction” (II Pet. 3:15,16). Peter says Paul’s writings are Scripture.
Does anyone detect a mandate here? (There are plenty of no-brainer questions for everyone.)
So we have, ostensibly figured out who Paul is. But, I’m afraid, to some, it may not matter. His teachings tend to be divided into the significant and the not-so significant, depending on one’s personal preferences. Like a breakfast buffet. This may be part of the subtle, or not-so-subtle, “twisting” his words go through. Some of them we simply pass off as outdated.
So, what is the answer to question number 1?
Paul is a teacher Jesus has given us. Jesus intends for us to heed his words. They are meant to be authoritative in our lives as Christians.
On to question number 2.
2. What is nature?
Okay. We know who Paul is. Hopefully, we have established this fact: his words are given by inspiration of the Spirit and are meant for our instruction. And “thumbing” them (with a nose, of course, not a thumbs-up) in I Corinthians 11:14 is a common way to show disregard for the Word of God. Lord willing, we will strengthen that and the answer to the question as to whether or not what Paul says in I Corinthians 11:14 has any bearing on us today, with a look at the second question.
What is nature?
Paul writes, “Does not nature itself teach you, that if a man wears long hair, it is a dishonor to him?” Instead of running to Absalom and Samson, let’s be brave and look the words “right between the eyes”! After all. It’s not like God’s Word is a Good Humor ice cream truck, parked outside our door, and we can choose which flavor we want. Do we honestly believe Old Testament men like Absalom and Samson are fighting with Paul? Or vice versa. Or that the Bible is either intentionally vague about this or it is in effect offering men a choice about how they want to wear their hair? Do we think Scripture is telling us two different things about long hair on men? Like the Spirit couldn’t figure out what He wanted to say about this?
“But, what if we associate nature with culture?” Surely someone is going to ask this. “Don’t men’s hairstyles change as culture changes? Paul may simply be referring to a cultural practice in his day.”
Yes. He could be.
But he’s not.
The nature of culture
Notice. Whatever “nature” is, it is teaching us one thing, all the time in a present, continuous sense. This, in itself, would normally disqualify nature as “culture.” Yet that is a popular back door for anyone looking for a way out of the room. Cultures come and go. Paul’s “nature” does not. Cultural practices over the space of earth history, as they relate to men’s hair, have never spoken with one voice. They have been nearly as divergent as heads themselves. Rather than creating a symphony, they create a cacophony.
So nature is not culture. (I hear a lot of weeping out there.)
Now I’m going to say something really earth-shattering. Ready?
Nature is nature. Like blue sky is blue.
Nature is nature
Things that are “natural” to us are intrinsic, innate, inborn. They lie at the heart of who we are as human beings. They can be modified by culture but they do not find their origin in culture. Thayer says the Greek New Testament word relates to “the nature of things, the force, laws, order, of nature, as opposed to what is monstrous, perverse; that which is contrary to nature’s laws.” It reflects the way God made us. The way He intended us to be. Nature operates according to the laws God has designed for it. We see that all around us, in the mountains and forests, in living things. Culture didn’t have a thing to do with the leaves falling outside my window.
To illustrate this, see how Paul uses the word in Romans 1:26 and 27. “God gave them up to vile affections: for even their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature; likewise, men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their passion with one another, men with men.” Notice what Paul is saying here. Actions that reflect a culture are contrary to nature. It is clear, nature and culture are not the same. As I said, nature reflects the way God made us. Though culture can often be in agreement with nature, sometimes, in our sinful world, culture takes an entirely divergent path from nature. The two are not the same. They can be as different as the east is from the west.
So there is something much more fundamental about nature than passing cultural practices.
Who and what
Now I’m going to make my final arguments.
The Bible clearly makes a distinction between a woman’s hair and a man’s hair. Why not? There is, after all, a clear physical distinction between us because of the way God has made us. No surprises there.
So, notice, once again, I Corinthians 11:14. Only, this time, we will look at it in conjunction with verse 15. Notice the distinction that is made. While it is a dishonor for a man to wear long hair, for a woman, it is a glory. What length of hair is to one is totally the opposite for the other. Isn’t that a little dramatic, Paul? A little over the top? After all. It’s only hair.
But there is more to this than meets the eye. Not only does nature have something to say about it, but someone is watching. And, “coincidentally,” there is another matter of great importance at stake. Long-haired men, and women with short hair like a man seem to overlook this.
So who is watching? And what is the other matter of great importance?
Thank you for asking.
Answers to the questions
The answer to the first question is angels. And the answer to the second, the role a woman’s long hair plays as a symbol of submission (see I Cor. 11:3,4,7,10.15). In fact, angels may very well be confused when men wear the symbol of submission meant for women, and women do not. As we gather for worship, our roles are reversed. And angels see this.
In conclusion, long hair is something that distinguishes a woman from a man. When John describes the locusts in Revelation 9, he says they have “the hair of women” (v. 8). He’s not saying they have updos, bobs, buns, or pixies. He’s saying they have long hair. Something we would normally associate with a woman. A distinction a woman has. That’s why he describes it that way.
The Bible clearly identifies long hair with women.
Nazarites cut their hair after they completed their vow. And Absalom cut his once every year. Men were not meant to always have long hair. It is an exception. Samuel may be the only man who never cut his hair. But it was for a specific purpose. It is not the rule. What Paul says in I Corinthians 11:14 is what nature intended. As designed by God.
Help us, Holy Spirit, not to have a disregard for the Word of God in anything we do.
The jury is in. And you, my friend, are on it. Did you reach a verdict?
Download Song Here: To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice
This post was published on October 31 at 6:53 pm. The posting date at the top of the page is incorrect. I don’t know why it is off by six hours! Seem strange? Yes, it does. I looked at my clock the moment I published it! I intended to publish it on October 31.
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther popped a nail at the end of his hammer into a church door in Wittenberg Germany. The “95 Theses” held firm in the breeze slipping past the wooden boards. The nail was secured during a medieval festival known as All Hallows (All Saints Day). But now it is known as Halloween.
So I am hammering too. Like Luther, I’ve secured my post to the “church” door where Jesus is also knocking (Rev. 3:20). On this Reformation Day (Oct. 31), it is in the spirit of Martin Luther and sola Scriptura this post is written. Scripture alone is our authority in matters of faith and practice (II Tim. 3:16). Brothers and sisters in Christ, I admonish you in love to live your lives in obedience to God’s Word.
© James Unruh 2019 and beyond