Men and Women Together: An Illustration

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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But among the Lord’s people, women are not independent of men, and men are not independent of women.

1 Corinthians 11:11

The issue of women's head coverings is not a major one in most of our churches today. (I expect, however, that there are churches in predominantly Muslim countries where this is an issue.) Yet the basic principles at work in Paul's discussion of veiling are as relevant today as they were 1,950 years ago in Corinth.

These principles, as you may recall, have to do, first of all, with dressing modestly in church. The second principle affirms the mutuality and interdependence of men and women. Neither women nor men should behave in ways that dishonor the opposite sex.

How might these principles be relevant today? Let me share an example from my days as senior pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church. At one point in my tenure there, some of the boys in the youth group confessed to one of their leaders that they were being distracted at church by the way some of the girls were dressing. These girls were simply wearing what was common among their peers, which included skirts that were a little on the short side. So the male leader approached one of the female leaders, explaining the situation and asking if she would talk with the girls about dressing more modestly.

At first, the female leader rejected this request, arguing that her girls were dressing in a way that was stylish and that "the guys just had to get over it." It was "their problem," she said. Without knowing it, this leader was making an argument very much like that of the Corinthian women, by defending immodest clothing on the basis of the girls' independence from the boys.

After further conversation and prayer, however, the female leader came to understand that the "boys' problem" was also the "girls' problem," since they were brothers and sisters in Christ. The girls needed to care for the boys and their feelings, even if they didn't relate to them. The leader agreed to talk with the girls, encouraging them to dress more modestly at church. The girls promised to be more careful, though some of them brought up ways that the boys' behavior had been unsettling to them. So the boys also had a chance to live out the interdependence envisioned in 1 Corinthians 11:11.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What do you think about the situation at Irvine Presbyterian Church? Does the resolution seem right to you? Why or why not? Have you ever adjusted your behavior so as to help others feel more comfortable? How does the vision of male-female interdependence impact your life? How might it challenge you to act differently in the future?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, as I think back about this situation at the church in Irvine, I thank you, first of all, for the willingness of the boys to admit to their leader that they were struggling with what some of the girls were wearing. I thank you also for the willingness of the girls' leader to consider what it meant for the girls and the boys to be interdependent, to care about each others' feelings. And I thank you for the way this story turned out, with opportunities for growth in mutual understanding and kindness.

Help us, Lord, to be more sensitive to each other. Help us to work harder to understand those who are different from us. May we be willing to give up some of our freedom for the sake of a brother or sister in Christ. In particular, help us as men and women to learn to share life together in a way that is mutually honoring, respectful, and gracious. Amen.

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