Propriety in Prayer

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“Why am I wearing this? To show off my stuff, or to present myself as someone who cares about how I present myself to the world.”

As I work my way through the letters of Paul to Timothy, both for my church and for you, my faithful and beloved readers, we come to chapter two of 1st Timothy. A chapter I would much rather have ignored because it has been misused by elements of the church for centuries in a way I believe is not consistent with the whole of scripture and the heart of God. But that is why we need to tackle it, as it does carry some important principles that do indeed need to be heeded.

The following is a small part of what I shared with my church today on the role of women in the church from a section of scripture that really had to do with the behavior of both men and women in public services, the context of which gets lost once the admonition to women in particular jumps out at the casual reader of scripture.

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This chapter, (read 1 Tim 2) has everything to do with prayer and propriety in public worship services and Paul’s ongoing battle against false teachings and bogus apostles.

So, the admonition to men and women to behave themselves respectfully and orderly in their gatherings and to not give room to false doctrine, which keeps rearing its head and apparently likes to speak uninvited, and often, is the basis behind Paul’s admonitions here. And is the context for his wanting women in these prayer gatherings to learn, quietly and submissively, dressed modestly and outstanding in her love for serving the Lord and her family.

There is a dynamic that the casual reader of 1 Timothy cannot be aware of as well. It’s what scholars call the ancient sexual revolution going on in Roman culture at the time. This spawned a whole other class of women that was quite a departure from the meek women of patriarchal Jewish culture the apostles came up in, she is called; “The new Roman woman.”

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This ancient sexual revolution was taking place and was finding its way into the churches of Ephesus and Corinth causing concern for Paul as to the image and respectability of the church which met publicly and was widely scrutinized by all from the Romans to the Jews.

The new Roman woman was very vocal and haughty, displaying her liberation with clothing that could be considered promiscuous. There was indeed a sexual component to this cultural shift as birth control and abortion played a role in the lifestyle of the liberated Roman woman. Yes, the Romans were very good at turning procreation into recreation with no consequences. Hmmm, sounds familiar.

Quite the departure from the biblical view of sex as being between a husband and a wife for the purpose of joining a man to a woman physically and spiritually as they became one before God and to bring children into the world, into a stable family whose anchor is the covenant made between a husband and a wife.

The emphasis Paul makes on childbearing, faith, love, holiness and self-control is a reminder to the women of the early church of God’s idea of sex and behavior in contrast to the vocal, disrespectful and loose woman of the culture they were in.

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Decorum

In the Apostle Paul’s day it was usually the wealthy women of stature, women who had fewer responsibilities as they had servants and slaves to do their chores affording them more leisure time to pursue their pleasures and money to adorn themselves with seductive and suggestive attire.

 

Jewelry and elaborately braided hair piled upon the head had been more commonly associated with prostitutes of the day but was now becoming fashionable among the high society ladies of the day. Quite the contrast to the simple dress and pulled back and covered hair of the traditional Jewish woman Paul was used to. This suggestive dress was becoming a huge distraction, as you can imagine, to the men of the church. Men haven’t changed.

We are still very visual–you have no idea–and easily distracted by clothing or lack thereof that a woman may not see any harm in. Men today don’t generally relate braided hair or jewelry with loose women as they did in Paul’s day but there are other things that you may not want to wear if you do not want to be a distraction in public church gatherings. The same goes for men. Dress nice but don’t dress like you are trying to attract a mate.

Men and women, this applies to both of you, when you get dressed ask yourself: Why am I wearing this? To show off my stuff, or to present myself as someone who cares about how I present myself to the world.

Dress for the job you want, as the old saying goes. If you want to be a street walker or a calendar model, then dress that way. Just don’t expect to be taken seriously if you do, especially while witnessing for Jesus. That’s all Paul is saying here.

 

So Paul is trying to head this night club atmosphere off, to restore some modicum of decorum and morality, to avoid even the appearance of immorality, as he states elsewhere, and to set a standard of decorum which will keep them in some measure of respectability amongst the common people of the city and amongst the Jews, all of whom Paul wants to reach with the gospel.

It is thought that some of these wealthy liberated women where teaching the heresy’s Paul warns about in the preceding chapter and he wants to put a stop to this

In Timothy’s church, just as he had to do in Corinth, Paul is trying to establish a respectable, presentable and productive order to things without quenching the Spirit.

And again, culture plays such a huge role in these discussions that looking at it in light of our western culture thousands of years and miles removed, it is nearly impossible to know exactly what Paul was referring to or trying to remedy.

But what we do know is that God still cares about how we present, and represent, ourselves as dearly loved children of the Father and as witnesses for Christ. Your beauty lies within, just let it shine.

loved

 

 

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