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Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Women in Braids

In two separate epistles from two separate writers the injunction against braids rears its ugly head.
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. (1 Tim 2:8-10)

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. (1 Peter 3:3-4)
Now, come on, guys, isn't this a bit ... nitpicky? Braids? Seriously?!

Of course, the question doesn't seem particularly relevant today and is mostly ignored. Given a society that exalts individuality and attention, braids are pretty tame. Well, perhaps jewelry is an issue, then? Or "costly attire" (given the cost of clothes worth wearing these days).

I hope that you're seeing that I'm being ridiculous. In a woodenly literal world, these texts would be explicit rules for women on how to or not to dress. They could not wear braids in their hair, but ponytails are fine. A beehive is okay. That '80's POOF hair is great. No word on multicolored hair. Just not braids. And jewelry is okay as long as it isn't gold jewelry, you see? If this is the kind of thing you're getting out of the text (and, likely, immediately rejecting it), then I think you're missing the point.

The point isn't hidden. The point is "respectable", "modesty and self-control", "good works". The point is "the hidden person of the heart" wearing "the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit". The point is character reflected in how you look and how you live.

It seems to me that there are two faulty responses to these texts. One is the woodenly literal response. "It says no braids, so ... no braids." Or jewelry or nice clothes. This is the Amish Option, so to speak. It misses the point of character rather than appearance. The other is our modern option. "Oh, that stuff is just so sexist and out of date. It's no big deal what you wear as long as you know Christ." Interestingly, it misses the point, too. Women interested in living biblically will need to correlate their purple hair and ostentatious jewelry with "the hidden person of the heart" wearing "the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit", not simply set it aside. Women who wish to live biblically will have to pull into alignment both the popular low-cut blouses, short shorts, and yoga pants and "respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control" and "what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works." Overemphasizing the details misses the whole point. So does ignoring it all. And chalking it up to "sexist Scripture" is its own apparel, dressing God's Word as a lie, not befitting someone who wishes to follow Christ.


Craig said...

Had a similar conversation last week at bible study. In 1 Peter the author clearly says that living a holy life includes an element of behavior. Yet, it's also clear that anyone can engage in behavior that appears holy without actually being holy. It frequently seems to come down to not trying to get close to the line of what is appropriate and perhaps even staying further away than is necessary.

I also think your recent separation of "woodenly literal" and contextually literal is well said. Some folks don't seem to grasp the fact that every type of literature can be taken literally as long as it's understood that metaphor is literally metaphor.

Stan said...

It seems like people will fall largely on one of two sides. Either they will work hard to appear holy without being holy or they will choose to ignore all that "holy works stuff" as no longer applicable ... all in the name of Jesus. The image from the texts, however, is precisely the reverse. Being holy will make you act differently.

Craig said...

I agree, it seems like it's too easy to focus on behavior.