“Don’t cut your hair!” In 1 Corinthians 11:15, it says, “but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.” Reading what Paul says about women and hair in 1 Corinthians 11 could be disturbing for us chicks who have shorter hair. There are some other things in the Bible that can also make me jittery, such as: head covering, don’t wear jewelry, restrictions on eating meat sacrificed to idols, circumcision, etc.
Some of the stuff I read in the Bible raises lots of questions for me today, as an educated American woman living in the 21st century. Looking at the rigorous compliance to legalistic precision that might be required in various biblical commandments, it can be very challenging and perplexing to me. Of course, I recognize that Jesus has brought us into a new covenant and His commandment is very straightforward, as He says in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
So how do we reconcile Jesus’ words and commandment with some of the other stuff in the New Testament like head covering, circumcision concerns, expectations for slaves and other stuff that doesn’t seem to have modern relevance? Do we deep dive into legalistic compliance and meticulous obedience? Or would there be some different options?
In terms of religious legalism, maybe you would find it helpful to read Jesus’ words in Matthew 23. One of the things that Jesus says in verse 24 is the criticism on straining gnats to swallow camels. I bring this to your attention because it can be easy to deep dive on legalism and particulars but miss the overarching principles, keeping true to Jesus’ core endgame, which is genuine love. To this end, let’s always prioritize the essential principles that Jesus demonstrated, living out the daily expression of genuine love.
When we get myopic with various particulars in the Bible, cogitating on gnats and details, it’s easy to neglect the core principles.
In order to remain true to the overarching principles of the Bible, let’s stay grounded in the priority of love. To help us do that, perhaps you would consider taking some time to ponder 1 John 4:19, which says, “We love, because He first loved us.” This verse is particularly important because it speaks to our fundamental need to be loved. I bring this to your attention because I think that much of our struggle to be loving is grounded in our need to let God love us.
Consequently, if God is love, based on 1 John 4:8, then letting God love us is also saying “yes” to God fully being God. In this line of thinking, if we make ourselves available to God to receive love from Him, then we can also let God love through us. This can help to resolve the dilemma between legalistic particulars and living in the grounded principles of genuine love.
Let’s remain in the place of God loving us, and from that place, letting love be the defining essential in our lives. As followers of Jesus, genuine love is drastically more vital than the legalistic particulars that often accompany religious rectitude and compliance. Let’s allow the principle of genuine love to remain more important than conforming to religious and legalistic particulars.
You really touched my heart with this piece. I went to particular church, and they really focused on the legalistic matters, and it always seemed to clash with the love that Jesus showed. This releases my heart to love unconditionally, all people, no matter their choices in life. What a breath of fresh air!! Thank you!