We are well aware that in most of the visible church, even in many of its professedly reformed branches, we live in a day and generation when no issue is made of distinctions in hair length between men and women. Most churches have little or nothing to say about it – even among the few who still rightly insist on women covering their heads in public worship. Long hair for women is considered a merely cultural matter of the outdated past, which can be safely ignored for all practical purposes today, leaving hair length to so-called “Christian liberty”.
In an unwarranted and misguided appeal to 1 Samuel 16:7, many think that God does not care about people’s outward appearance, as long as their hearts are right. The truth, of course, is that if people have the grace of God in their hearts, they will take heed to everything the Bible says, not only about the inward exercises of their souls, but also about their outward conduct.
Does Scripture speak on the issue of hair length? That is the question. If the Bible is silent or non-committal on the subject, then we may be so too. But if God’s Word has spoken on the matter, then we must contend earnestly for this part of the Christian faith, along with every other part of revealed religion.
The Bible most certainly does have something to say about the length of hair for males and females. The most significant passage of Scripture to deal with the topic is found in the New Testament, in 1 Corinthians 11:5-16.
Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.
In this passage Paul teaches plainly the following principles:
- Women’s and men’s hair are to be distinct.
- Women’s and men’s hair are to be distinct in length.
- Women should have long hair and men should have short hair.
- “Nature” teaches long hair for women and short hair for men.
- It is shameful for women to have short hair and men to have long hair.
- A woman with short hair is dishonouring male headship.
- Long hair is a woman’s glory.
- Long hair is a gift to women.
- Long hair is a woman’s covering.
- Every church must implement this distinction.
To read more on the explanation of these matters, see the whole article at this link.