Bo Doesn’t Know Legalism

Something in God’s nature is reflected in all true fatherhood. Even if man and woman are created differently, both of them are still created by God. They’re created for each other and supplement each other. They do that even in church. Paul talks quite a bit about the woman’s contribution to work in the Church in his letters, In [First Corinthians chapter ten] he mentions that they could pray and prophesy. When people prayed in the home, the woman could lead the prayer. Also, if she had the gift of prophesy, she could speak with the Spirit’s insight.

We see a difference here between the ancient church and Judaism. The Jewish nation was patriarchal, which they reasoned by referring to Genesis. Paul also refers to creation. Of course there are differences between man and woman. We have to see these differences, however, in the light of what happened through Christ. “In the Lord,” in other words in Christ’s kingdom, Christians must not think like the Jews did. Man and woman exist for each other. Each of them serves according to the gifts they’ve received, and we all are one in Christ. We are organs in the same body, serving one another. Therefore, there is no patriarchy in the New Testament. The fact that a woman could be gainfully employed and have a vocation went without saying.

Paul also brings up the question of outward appearances. How long should a man’s hair be? What should be on your head during church services? There’s a general rule in the New Testament for questions like these: one should act according to what’s considered common decency. Given that rule, there will be different answers to the same question over time. What’s considered offensive in one situation can be considered completely respectable in another. If Paul only recommends a certain kind of appearance in regard to this rule, then a Christian can react differently when outer appearances change. If, however, there’s something deeper to what Paul says, his words are binding for all time. Since, in this case, he appeals to a feeling of decency (what’s “proper”) we mean, as Lutherans, that people today can act as custom allows. However, we might see women in other countries put a veil or handkerchief over their hair when they enter the church. There, Paul’s words are regarded applicable through all time. If they are, we should certainly live after them. We Lutherans, however, see these as recommendations of the kind that can change over time, depending on custom and the good of man.

– Bo Giertz, “To Live with Christ“, pages 511-512

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