As conservative Anabaptists, we grow up accepting the head covering as a normal part of life. As we mature and hear some of our friends or family questioning the necessity of wearing it, or maybe we ourselves have questioned it, we hear every argument for it. We know all the right Biblical answers for it. We also know why our home church makes the rules for the size, the shape, and the material for our specific church group. We most likely even know why the neighboring church has slightly different rules for their specific covering size, shape, and style.
And if we are honest, we’ll admit that sometimes we get tired of hearing it hammered over and over.
So the thought of writing about the head covering almost fills me with dread. Why add another opinion to the staggering mound of Anabaptist head covering dogmas?
But yet, I believe strongly that this is another area that Anabaptists need reformation in.
Sometimes it seems that we have put the Head Covering issue as the foundation of who we are as a church. If our focus is really on following Christ, our concerns should be for the same things He cared about. Christ did not focus on outward things as much as He addressed the heart. When outward issues were obvious, He addressed the heart issue that was causing the problem.
When Christ transforms the heart, our life choices will reflect that transformation. Do we really believe that?
When a “baby” Christian enters into new life in Christ, we don’t expect them to live perfectly overnight. We all started out like that and then learned to walk uprightly. The Holy Spirit brought conviction and little by little we changed. And we keep on changing– each of us at our own pace and each in specific areas that the Spirit brings conviction in. Do we believe that?
“The head covering is not a salvation issue, but it is an obedience issue.” How many times have we heard that? But yet we make it a salvation issue. It has become the proof of salvation that we require for anyone wishing to join our movement.
If following Christ is really what sets us apart from the world, why do we think it should be our head coverings that set us apart? Have we turned our faith in Christ into faith in our head coverings?
If you don’t think the latter statement is true of yourself, ask yourself whether you think a woman of faith who does not wear a head covering should be allowed to get baptized in your church?
Conservative Anabaptists will not allow that. But then on that same note, would we baptize a newly converted young lady who has a problem of slandering and reviling others on occasion? We most likely would extend a little more grace because she is a young believer. We would give teaching and pray for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction. But we would still baptize her– as long as she at least wore a head covering.
If communion time came and this same young lady still seemed to struggle with slander and gossip, we would most likely still handle it the same way.
But… if she stopped wearing a head covering, everything would change immediately.
Interestingly enough, 1 Corinthian 5:11 says “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a on no not to eat.”
Hmm… not wearing a head covering isn’t on this list. A railer, on the other hand, is on this list. Strong’s defines a railer as someone who reviles or slanders.
Have we gotten off track?
Just as the Pharisees added to God’s commands concerning Sabbath keeping (Mat. 12, Mark 2) and the washing of hands (Mat. 15, Mark 7), could it be that we have taken our “pet commandment” and elevated it to higher status than what God ever intended?
If Jesus were here among us today, would we Anabaptists be the Pharisees attempting to reprimand and question Jesus’ methods? “What are You thinking, Jesus? Why are You allowing that woman to be so close to You? Can’t You see she doesn’t even have a covering on? Why are You allowing her to get baptized? Why are You allowing your disciples to mingle with these worldly looking people?”
We all know women who have not worn a covering, but yet walked closely with God (Elizabeth Elliot comes to mind). We have a hard time reconciling that with our beliefs. We won’t have anything to do with them in our churches, but we conclude with disapproval that if Jesus wants to associate Himself with them outside of our churches, that’s up to Him.
I believe God wants women to cover their heads when praying or prophesying and men to uncover their heads while praying or prophesying, but I don’t think He ever intended for it to be elevated to the level that we have turned it into.
I think it’s like any other Scripture. It needs to be taught and then we need to allow the Holy Spirit to convict. It can not be forced, or it defeats the purpose.
My next few articles will be on this topic of head coverings. I will be taking a look back at some history regarding the Anabaptist following and elevation of this Biblical directive, as well as some areas we may need repentance and reformation in.