Choose your commentary, choose your church tradition, choose your prejudices, draw your conclusions. I was once accosted on the street in Port of Spain, when my hair was long, dense and red, and told that I was a shameful sinner by a young man who had clear and hermetically sealed convictions on the matter. So sure was he that he never had the courtesy to greet me, name himself or open his heart to me. Shame, man!
I have three minutes to speak on a passage that Kenneth Bailey describes as a ‘dense and mysterious passage [that] does not reveal all its secrets to anyone’. Richard Hays says that it presents severe problems for the interpreter. So I refer you to Richard’s Interpretation commentary for an excellent exposition, and in the meantime, encourage you not to forget three things that can be positively drawn from this passage:
- Rejoice in your womanhood, or in your manhood. A healthy Christian community needs us all, with our distinctions, and not with some bland aspiration to neutral sameness.
- We are all free to minister, and in this passage at least, we see both women and men prophesying and praying. Grasp your God-given freedom to exercise that ministry, but do not allow your joy in the freedom of Christ lead you into licence, or acts that are culturally offensive, or shameful.
- Paul has his views on the position of men and women in the created order, but even he recognizes that in the new order, ‘in the Lord, woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman.’ We are, in Christ, interdependent, given to each other, for each other, for the coming Kingdom.
And finally, don’t be afraid to preach on the hard passages, but never do so standing twenty feet above contradiction. If you don’t agree with what I’ve said, thank God that I’m not the Pope. Pray for me, as I will pray for you, that we will never lose that glorious Christian relief at being saved by grace, lest anyone, man or woman, should boast save in the cross of Jesus Christ.