Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 49

What I Read Today: 1 Corinthians 11.

What Stood Out About What I Read Today: 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26, “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Random Thoughts About What I Read:

I got all into that television show on HBO called “Band of Brothers.” For the uninitiated, it’s the story of Easy Company. The men of the 506th parachute infantry regiment. The reason they were famous is they were in the invasion of Normandy, faught through Europe, and managed to secure Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.

In other words, they were in on all the significant parts of the war.

We follow the story from the company’s training days, in which there was a trainer of this elite group named Herbert Sobel (played by Friends actor David Schwimmer). He’d been with the company since basic training and then trained them as they were getting ready for the assignment of their life: D-Day.

The men detested both Sobel and his methods…and Sobel was transferred shortly after the Normandy invasion.

So, the men fight through an awful lot of warfare together and become this “band of brothers” in the 8 months between D-day and drinking Hitler’s wine in the Eagle’s Nest. They lost a lot of men. They lost a lot of leaders.

And you can imagine the distrust of the Band of Brothers once they discovered that Sobel would be brought back in to the company as the war got closer to the end. There was a significant role the paratroopers were supposed to play in a battle and paratroopers would be needed.

A poignant moment came about when one of the men in the 506th, Dick Winters, had risen in rank to Major, and Sobel rejoined the men at the lesser rank of Captain. He wouldn’t look at Winters due to their dislike of one another that went all the way back to basic training. Winters saluted when they made eye-contact.

Sobel looked away and kept walking. Major Winters said, “Captain Sobel.”

Sobel stopped and looked at Winters. Major Winters continued, “You salute the rank, not the man.” What he meant was that you might not have to like your superior officer, but for this thing to maintain order (and order kept everyone alive, frankly), you salute because it reminds everyone of the order of things.

That’s the mindset I think people need to have in reading Chapter 11. So much has been made about the role of women in the church service, and the over-arching idea is that order within the church is to be maintained. So, this, in many ways, is to help with those chain-of-command kinds of issues.

This chapter is fraught with things we don’t know about the culture of Corinth as well as the 1st century meanings. What we do know is that the chain of command is laid out very quickly.

Christ is the head of every man.
Man is head of the woman.
God is the head of Christ.

It doesn’t say anything about the WORTH of anyone–men or women.

The next is that women are supposed to somehow cover her head while praying/prophesying. Likely some sort of shawl, or possibly the way in which she wore her hair was the “covering.” For example, in that culture it is believed that a woman with long hair that wore her hair “loose” was either a sign of mourning or bearing shame of being an adulteress. Likley, what Paul was saying is that it might be confusing to folks in society who’d become Christians or maybe visiting the church assembly to misunderstand what was going on. But make no mistake, the women were assumed to be active participants in worship.

Conversely, the men were to do the OPPOSITE of the Jewish men, and uncover their heads during prayer. Again, this was helping the ORDER of the worship service.

In fact, in verse 11 & 12, Paul makes sure he’s not misunderstood in the role of women and men by pointing out that self-centeredness destroys unity within the Body and everyone is subordinate to God.

He then argues that men are distinguishably different from women by their very nature. (And before anyone decides to ask me about long hair on men, I’d encourage you to think that through, because to define “long” you have to use a cultural standard–and a 1st century Corinthian man’s hair would’ve likely been longer than even what we might consider “long” on men in other times/cultures…and you better hope your wife doesn’t have a short hairdo)

While it’s a shame that this section of Scripture has been twisted to mean all sorts of things it doesn’t, here’s what it does mean:

Christians should live in unity.
Established order helps us live in unity.
Men and women are equal in essence and both should participate in worship.
Christian men and women should be ordered and respectful so they can have unity.

It’s difficult to grasp all the reasoning Paul uses here, but I think it’s relatively easy to get the main points.

What’s not so difficult is to grasp another area of corporate worship, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Apparently, what had been going on was that divisiveness had become a problem with the love feast that happened before the supper.

Turns out the rich folks could get off early to take part in the Supper and eaten and had their fill of drink before the poor people had their dinner. The rich people were taking the good seats and places of prominence.

They weren’t taking it seriously…they seemed to forget that the purpose was to remember the work of Christ. There supposed to examine themselves…to prepare their hearts. The entire point is to treat their brothers & sisters in love, and be orderly and unified. If they couldn’t do it right, it’d be better for them to eat at home before they came to the supper.

Too often we miss the main points in both of these areas: Love each other and choose to serve one another. It really isn’t about me here…

…and, like Band of Brothers…

…we may all come from different walks of like with differences in sex, social status, economic status…

…but we have a war to win against our culture…

…and we can’t fight unless we salute the rank, not the man. Submit to our God and one another in such a way that we can more truly love one another, even in our public gatherings.

(Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 12-13)