One of the most perplexing texts in the New Testament is 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. That's the one where Paul talks about head coverings, and long hair on men.
I preached this text today at The Orchard Church in Kingsley, MI.
You can listen to the sermon here.
Below I have reproduced my commentary and paraphrase of this text. This was an attempt to help us see better what the Apostle Paul was communicating to the first-century believers.
1 Corinthians 11:2-16
2 You have followed my teaching well,
3 but you might have misunderstood Galatians 3:28.
While we are all equal in value in God’s plan for salvation, we all have authorities in our lives.
For example, Jesus submitted to God the father, and wives respect their husbands.
4 In our culture, if a man prays or teaches with a hat on,
he dishonors Christ (because he is acting like a pagan priest).
5 In our culture, if a woman prays or teaches with her hair down,
she dishonors her husband, because it communicates sexual promiscuity and idolatry.
6 So, because loose hair on a woman communicates promiscuity,
she might as well be identified as an adulteress by shaving her head.
But we know it is disgraceful to by identified as an adulteress,
so why be identified as promiscuous?
7 A man should not wear a hat like a pagan priest,
because he represents God
and should seek to honor the one true God in how he is dressed.
In the same way, a wife should honor the husband in how she is dressed.
8 When God created people,
he made the woman from the man,
to be his companion and to help him.
9 so, wives wear your hair in a way that is respectful of your husband,
10 because some of you dress in a way that even confuses the angels
– they can’t tell if you’re a Christians or a temple prostitute.
11 But remember in Jesus, men and women need each other.
12 God made both of our unique genders and we need each other.
13 This is the custom here:
14 Men look like respectable men,
15 and women look like respectable women.
16 Please don’t argue about this.
Every church wants men and women to honor God in how they look.
© 2018 Nathan J. Norman
This is a follow-up to some of the feedback I have received over the last two weeks.
I believe that when a pastor commits adultery, it always carries with it an element of abuse. I have laid out my thoughts below.
When A Pastor Pursues a Congregant, He Abuses His Authority
A pastor is called to be the chief servant of a church. Christian leaders are given enormous power and authority so that they can serve their people. When a pastor pursues a congregant, he is misusing his authority to fulfill his sexual desires, rather than using his authority to serve the congregant.
Think about it like this:
Imagine you were a mid-level manager in a large corporation. A mailroom kid tells you, “You should change the numbers on the company’s tax information. It will help us make more money.” How much pressure are you feeling to do something immoral? Not much. The kid has no structural power.
Next, a fellow manager comes to you and says, “You should change our tax numbers.” How much pressure are you feeling now? A little bit more, I’d imagine.
Finally, the CEO calls you into his office and says, “You should change the tax numbers.” How much pressure are you feeling now? It is probably enormous. Will you lose your job if you refuse? How will you provide for your family if you lose your income? And even if you keep your job, how could you ever get a promotion after you refused?
There is a similar pressure on a congregant when a pastor pursues and pressures her for sex. She loves her church. She has built a network of friends and family. The pastor baptized her children. Maybe he baptized her! And he speaks for God every single week!
When a pastor or Christian leader pursues one of his flock for sex, he is abusing his authority for his own sinful gain.
When A Pastor Commits Adultery with a Person Pursuing Him, He Abuses His Office
I imagine most people understand and agree that the previous scenario is predatory.
The disagreement comes in a situation where a congregant, or non-congregant sexually pursues a pastor. One could argue: While it is still wrong for a pastor to commit adultery with a person who is sexually aggressive with him, there is no abuse involved.
Think about it like this:
Jimmy has a major addiction to painkillers. He goes to his neighbor and asks for money, so he can buy the painkillers. The neighbor knows he has a problem, but gives him some money. Is this wrong of the neighbor? Absolutely. The neighbor is enabling Jimmy to sin.
Next, Jimmy asks his friend to swipe some of his grandma’s prescribed pills. His friend does so and gives them to Jimmy. Is this wrong of the friend? Absolutely. The friend is stealing and enabling Jimmy to sin.
Finally, Jimmy makes an appointment with a medical doctor. Jimmy goes into the appointment and offers to pay the doctor $5,000.00 in cash for a year’s supply of pain medication. What should the doctor do? He should refuse, and offer a variety of options to help Jimmy break free from his addiction.
But what if the doctor agrees? The doctor takes the money and writes him a prescription. Is this wrong? Of course. Is this an abuse of the doctor’s role? Absolutely. Is the doctor’s sin more grievous than the sins committed by the neighbor and friend? Certainly.
Because the doctor is not just an average man. He is a man who was licensed by a state after earning a medical degree from an accredited university. He is a man who has taken an oath to “first do no harm.” He, better than most, understands the physiological harm Jimmy is causing to himself, and the social harm he is causing to those around him.
In the same way, a pastor is not just an average man. He has been ordained by a congregation, which is not a conferring of authority, but a recognition that God Himself has called this person to guard, lead, and feed the flock of Christ before the foundations of the earth.
Just as a doctor should not receive bribe money from an addict, neither should a pastor receive adulterous advances of anyone. His job… His calling requires him to recognize that such advances are symptoms of sin. And like a good doctor, he should refuse the advances and speak of healing, forgiveness, and fulfillment that can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ.
If a pastor or Christian leader commits adultery with a person sexually pursuing him, he is abusing his office.
The Apostle Paul commanded young Timothy, “Don’t accept an accusation against an elder unless it is supported by two or three witnesses. Publicly rebuke those who sin, so that the rest will be afraid”
(1 Timothy 5:19-20 CSB).
Thinking my way through these issues has terrified me. I love the Lord, my wife, my children, and my church. I never want to bring shame to them by my actions. And, like all callings, I recognize that I am ill-equipped to do what Christ has called me to do. So, I fearfully pray that God the Holy Spirit will guard me, because I know I am not beyond the sin of adultery – which carries with it a greater violation for pastors.
So please pray for me and pray for your pastors.
Mostly, though, pray for those who have been abused by pastors – that they might still follow after Christ, find healing in him, and enjoy the fellowship of a church.
Dear Dr. Frank S. Page,
I am writing this letter for a number of reasons. First, it is to express my deep disappointment in your moral failing. Second, it is for the benefit of the church I serve, that they might follow Christ more closely. Finally, it is for the benefit of my friends and family who do not know Jesus.
I am a Millennial pastor serving in a small church in Northern Michigan. I was not raised in the SBC but having been serving in Southern Baptist churches for the last twelve years.
I can only assume from your follow-up statement to your first resignation that you mean adultery when you say “personal failing” and “personal indiscretion”. If this is the case, please clarify your sin. We live in a culture that uses language to minimize sin. Adultery is not an affair, a fling, or a personal indiscretion. When we minimize sin, we minimize our need for the Savior.
Because you have used terms that our entire culture will interpret as adultery, I am responding to your resignation with that assumption.
At the very least, I call on you to prorate any monies and benefits you received from the SBC (including travel, meals, conferences, etc.) from the time this relationship began. Please return these funds to the Cooperative Program. Both of the SBC churches I have served in have given faithfully and sacrificially to the CP. My current church is in desperate need of a larger sanctuary. We are growing in leaps and bounds. It is difficult for us to see our massive need to serve more people with the gospel, then look at our giving over the years and see that some of those funds have been used to enable you to lead us while committing grievous sin.
Please return the funds.
More importantly, if indeed you have committed adultery, your sin goes far beyond adultery. Because of your power, authority, and influence, it is sexual abuse. Perhaps it is not sexual abuse that is illegal but remember that the law is the absolute bottom of morality, not the top. Just because something is legal, does not mean it is moral or acceptable in God’s eyes.
King David sexually abused Bathsheba. He used his power to have sex with Bathsheba. When Nathan the Prophet confronted the king, Nathan said the rich man devoured the lamb. While we are not given insight into how David and Bathsheba’s sexual encounter played out in the bed chambers, God – speaking through the prophet – was very clear. What David did in taking the lamb and devouring it was abuse. In a very real way, David destroyed Bathsheba.
I found it ironic that on the same Sunday, a popular pastor in America described his sexual abuse of a teenager as a “sexual encounter” our small church was wrestling through 2 Samuel 13 – the rape of Tamar.
As we discussed this difficult topic, I communicated to the church that we would not sweep sexual abuse claims under the rug like so many organizations and churches have done. Instead we would immediately separate the accused, contact authorities, and communicate what was happening with the church congregation.
Part of my hope with this letter is to bring to light sin so that the congregation I serve does not have to fear that I, or other leaders in the church, will ignore or minimize sexual abuse.
While I pray for you and your family’s well-being and healing, I hope the public consequences of your sin are severe. So severe that generations of pastors understand that sin is not worth it. God told David, “You acted in secret, but I will do this before all Israel and in broad daylight” (2 Samuel 12:12). While there is forgiveness to be found in Christ – there are consequences in this life. It is the entire point of 2 Samuel 12. Forgiveness with consequences.
Other than answering and repenting of your sin, please do not enter again into public ministry. You can serve the Church in many wonderful ways, behind the scenes.
On a final and personal note, you know that pastoral ministry is hard. It is becoming increasingly hard. You have made it harder for all of the SBC churches you were supposed to be serving. Your sin terrifies me. Not because it is so foreign and unthinkable, but because it is very near to me. While I have never committed physical adultery or fornication, I know that I very well could do so. I know that sexual sin frequently comes knocking on the door of my heart.
So, I too need to repent. I repent in the hopes that I will rely on the strength of God the Holy Spirit and not myself. I repent, trusting that the sacrifice of Christ is not only enough to forgive me of my sins, but to keep me from falling.
And I repent in the hopes that God will somehow use this fallout for His glory, for your good, and that many sons and daughters will enter into the Kingdom of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Because of Jesus,
Pastor Nathan J. Norman
njn (at) nathanjamesnorman.com
How long, Lord?
Must we endure the slaughter of our children another day?
Evil men invade our schools, our churches,
and yet they continue.
Nothing changes. They never stop.
In the mourning of the slaughter we await news of the next massacre.
Many offer tired answers which do nothing to change the hatred buried in our hearts,
their answers do nothing to transform perverse minds,
who find joy in shedding the blood of our children and your people.
Do not hold past sins against us;
let Your compassion come to us quickly,
for we have become weak.
God of our salvation, help us-- for the glory of Your name.
Deliver us and atone for our sins, because of Your name.
Why should those who hate you ask “Where is their God?”
Before our eyes, let vengeance for the shed blood of Your servants be known among the nations.
Before our eyes, transform our selfish, greedy, and hateful hearts.
Before our eyes, give your comfort where there is no comfort to be found.
Before our eyes, bring your peace to a people who hate each other.
Let the groans of America reach You;
according to Your great power, preserve us.
We are dying.
Revive us, Lord.
Rescue us from death.
Restore us in the Name and the Power
of our great Lord and Savior.
Then we, Your people, the sheep of Your pasture,
will thank You forever;
we will declare Your praise to generation after generation.
In Jesus’s Name we beg.
Inspired by Psalm 79. Italicized text indicates direct quotes.
I had a great time reviewing the Weird Al film UHF as a guest on the Retro Rewind Podcast. This show has quickly become one of my favorites, and if you enjoy lively discussion about nostalgia inducing films you really should check them out.
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You can listen to the UHF episode here.
The Untold Podcast Reviews the Nnewts Trilogy by Doug TenNapel
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Find Nnewts here: https://www.amazon.com/Escape-Lizzarks-Nnewts-Doug-TenNapel/dp/0545676479/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1501950077&sr=8-3
Last week Untold Podcast released a rather controversial episode. It delves into LGBTQ issues within the context of Christian faithfulness. We also produced a great trailer for the show. If you're so inclined, give the show a listen and let us know what you think.