Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. – 1 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV)
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You can’t get much more counterculture than this! Shuck off all consumerism. Admittedly, Plain can be very attractive, but a woman is hoping to attract and hold a man’s attention. Let’s get real.
Perhaps we need to balance this with 1 Timothy 2:9, in which we may discern a principle of modesty – and while braiding the hair is, in these passages, forbidden, I would venture that today plaited hair would fit easily within the range of modesty – maybe even more so than long hair worn long would.
Considering hair in 1st and 2nd Corinthians also becomes interesting from an administrative point-of-view. Paul is faced with one very contentious Meeting. He has to get it back on track, pronto. So we find him admitting, at many points, that this particular insight or ruling is coming from him as an administrator, rather than directly from Christ. Since the women in this particular congregation seem to be going overboard and disrupting the worship (when the very act of allowing them to be present within the place of worship was a vast leap forward in that culture and place), he decided to silence – as would any group presenting similar difficulties, I suspect. In their new liberty, they had apparently taken on a wild appearance, too – this is the only instance in Scripture where a covering is called for – in part because, as my New Compact Bible Dictionary notes, “At that time in Greece only immoral women were seen with their heads uncovered. Paul means that Christian women are not to disregard social convention; it would hurt their testimony.”
Well, that certainly puts the issue in a fresh perspective!
In a parallel vein, contrast this to the time one of the Roman emperors decreed that to distinguish the prostitutes of the city from virtuous women, the women of ill-repute would have to dye their hair blonde (since Italian women are, almost universally brunette). Almost immediately, all of the leading ladies of the city – including the empress – dyed their hair blonde, too. They didn’t want to be left out of the “action.” I see too much of the same sort of activity all around me here. And thee wonders why I would like to see thee stay under a cloth covering? (Not that my regard for thee would diminish in the least, should thee come out from under it . . . can thee understand?) Sincerely …
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Wait without Weariness, and you shall behold his Countenance, and hear his pleasant Voice, which will revive your Spirits; but still be you mindful when you hear Things unutterable, that you keep low and humble, so shall you be kept from the Snares of the Devil. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)