My husband asked me to not cover my head. What should I do?
This is a very difficult situation. I’d like to present two opposing sides to the argument for your consideration. Then I will offer some practical suggestions for working through this issue.
View #1: Don’t Cover (Follow your Husband)
A head covering in the context of 1 Corinthians 11 is a symbol that you’ve placed yourself under male authority. If you are married, this would be a symbol that you are willingly submitting to your husbands leadership. Since this is what the symbol means, to cover your head while your husband has told you not to, would be a contradiction. All throughout Scripture we see that the principle is more important than the symbol. Jesus was consistently rebuking the Pharisees for dealing with the outward while the inward wasn’t addressed. The same Paul who commanded head covering also said, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” (Eph 5:24) The wife is not to obey only in issues she agrees with (for that would not be submission), but she is to follow her husbands leadership in all things. While the Scripture does command women to cover their heads, it also commands her to submit to her husband. Therefore it isn’t an issue of whether she should obey God rather than man, but which command of God’s will she obey? The situation is unfortunate but if she obeys her husband in this matter she can rest easy knowing that 1) she is willing to cover and God sees her heart 2) she has chosen the higher principle over the symbol when both could not be obeyed due to the situation being out of her control. God will be seeking an account from your husband for why you were not covered, not from you. When authority is given to someone, it is the person in authority who must give an account (Heb 13:17). The person who is to be in subjection will be called to account for their submission to that authority.
View #2: Cover your Head (Follow Christ)
The highest authority you’re under is not your husband, but God. Jesus affirmed the religious leaders authority when he said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you…”. (Mat 23:2-3) However, when the apostles were told by that rightful authority to disobey a command of God they responded “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) Therefore one can be under authority, while still respectfully disobeying if they contradict a command of God. Would you obey your husband if he told you to not read your Bible? Not pray? Not participate in the Lord’s supper, ever? You wouldn’t, right? The grounds for your disobedience would be because God commands you to do said thing. This is no different. While it is a symbol of being under authority, it’s also a command from God regarding how we are to worship Him in the public assembly. It’s instructions about how we are to talk to God (praying) and declare how He’s spoken to us (prophesying). Since the command pertains to our worship of Him it is to be obeyed like any other command He gives.
If you and your husband do not understand head covering the same way, here are some practical suggestions to peacefully work through the difference.
1) Pray: Remember that the Lord is sovereign and has all men’s hearts in His hands. This should give us great confidence especially if there is stubbornness or sin clouding the discussion since only He can change a heart. It is the Lord’s revealed will that there be peace (Heb 12:14), unity (Eph 4:3) and that women should cover (1 Cor 11:5-6). Since that is so, pray with confidence for the Lord to unify your family theologically and for the freedom to cover with your husbands blessing. “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 Jn 5:14)
2) Study with your husband: Ask your husband if you can have an in-depth study on this topic together. Read, discuss and listen to arguments for and against head covering. Accompanied with prayer this may be the means the Lord uses to unify you both.
3) Request the freedom to cover: If after studying the issue together you are still not on the same page, ask him if he’d be willing to give you the freedom to cover. Many God-fearing husbands are understanding and sympathetic to issues that trouble one’s conscience.
4) Request counsel: There is wisdom in a multitude of counsellors (Prov 11:14 ESV). When we’re having marital struggles and disagreements it’s great to be able to talk with other trusted brothers and sisters. Ask your husband if you could have a couple from your church/small group over or sit down with your pastor(s) to discuss the issue. They may be able to see barriers / blind spots that neither are you have been able to see or provide a fresh perspective.
While it is our hope that these practical suggestions will help resolve many differences, it will not for all. If you find yourself in that situation you’ll have to act in accordance with your own conscience. It is before your own Master that you stand or fall (Rom 14:4).