By David Martz
Today's Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:3–16
Central Thought: Traditions and customs are often rooted in cultural meaning.
Perhaps you have been in a country and gave a thumbs-up or an OK sign to someone, only to learn you made a profane gesture. Sometimes a mispronounced word has the same effect! In Muslim countries it is an insult to shake with one's left hand or to pat a young boy on the head. Customs acceptable to Westerners may be vulgar to other cultures.
During the late Old Testament and early New Testament periods, women wore veils as a symbol of a man's authority (protection) over his wife. A head covering was a symbol of a woman's protection, honor, and integrity, in sharp contrast to the practice of prostitutes, who generally did not wear veils. A woman could visit public places and receive honor because a veil indicated she was under the protection of a husband, father, or guardian. Another reason for veils in that day was that a woman's hair was considered an object of a man's lust, just as other parts of female anatomy are today. Veils in the early church were based on socio-cultural values; it was a symbol that conveyed respect of one's family, nation, God. This was the accepted custom (I Corinthians 11:16) and a tradition (I Corinthians 11:2).
Believers should be patient with the symbols and practices of others, since they may be rooted in social and cultural meaning. The concept of authority or power is important. Today, a ring symbolizes a marriage contract or covenant as does the taking of the husband's last name. Marriage doesn't set up a hierarchy of authority, but a covering of love, security and legal standing; symbols are only external ways for identifying that relationship. Customs and symbols could even become opportunities to share Christ.
Devotional Prayer: Father, help me not to look at people outwardly, but to look into the hearts of those I live among and work with. May their practices not cause me to draw back from praying and witnessing to them about Your great salvation. In the name of Jesus our Lord I pray. Amen.
Today's Bible Reading: Nehemiah 12:27–13:31; 1 Corinthians 11:3–16; Psalm 35:1–16; Proverbs 21:17–18