I am writing this to answer why some apostolic pastors preach against facial hair and if it is a sin.
I do agree that there are circumstances where the leadership of a church can establish a standard not found in the Bible. An example would be preaching against wearing certain clothing or colors that could misidentify a saint as a member of a local gang. Wearing such things might hurt a saint’s testimony and possibly even endanger his or her life. Perhaps wearing a particular haircut or facial hair style would cause a similar local obstacle. I do know there are parts of the world where, due to local customs about men, a missionary does better if he wears facial hair. The Apostle Paul had a burden to reach the lost. This drove him to say “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Paul lived in a Jewish world where men wore beards and Romans commonly shaved theirs. Certainly, Paul wore facial hair, but even if he did not, I doubt he would have a problem growing his beard if that helped him reach the lost.
Any standard preached should help remedy a problem a local church body is facing, which ultimately means that its purpose is for those saints’ spiritual wellbeing. Thus, no leader standing in a pulpit has the license to impose a standard that is based on his own rules or on his own preferences. Let me be clear here—there are no Bible verses against a man wearing facial hair—none. So, if a church leader is going to set a standard against men wearing facial hair, he needs a valid reason for doing so. Without such a reason, that standard is the will of man, not the will of God.
In my almost 35 years in the UPCI, I’ve heard preaching against facial hair began as a way to separate apostolic men from their Hippie counterparts. I was born in 1962, and I remember what Hippies wore. That said, the clothing choices of each group should alone have made this distinction very clear…I mean, we are talking about the difference between wearing a tie and tie dye. But if that is the reason, who today would think a man with facial hair is a Hippie? I mean, any Hippie alive today is a Grandparent living on Social Security. So, surely this excuse against facial hair is no longer valid.
I’ve also been told that since wearing facial hair is a cultural issue common among black men, preaching against it was used to more easily separate the white and black apostolic groups. Of course, we see no such separation during Topeka, Kansas, or the Azusa Street Revival. During those early years, the focus was on God pouring out His Spirit on “all flesh.” As a side note, pictures from that time show most of the men involved had facial hair. That said, I’ve yet to meet anyone who can confirm that racial separation was the actual cause…and I sincerely hope that this means it was not. Regardless, this certainly cannot be used as the excuse today.
What I do know is, within the UPCI, many pastors preach against facial hair because they fear being labeled backslidden if they don’t. It’s a cultural thing that the standard is to have no facial hair. Anything less then that is viewed as a compromise. Some UPCI pastors do allow facial hair everywhere but on the Church “platform.” I’ve always wondered how that works since it’s the people, and not the building, that is “the Church.” Therefore, why is facial hair disallowed only on a small square-feet area of a building, but everywhere else it’s okay? Any pastor concerned about hurting their status with other pastors may not even recognize that they are preaching against facial hair due to fear. Such leaders should take a prayerful inventory of their reason to see if this applies. But those who find they do use fear as their excuse to preach against facial hair need to remember that fear is a spirit not of God and that the fear of man brings a snare (2 Timothy 1:7; Proverbs 29:25).
There are standards based on what the Bible says, and there are standards based on what culture demands. The purpose of some of these is to differentiate the look of men from the look of women. But no standard preached from a pulpit can do that more easily or more naturally than facial hair on men. I firmly believe God created man and woman with specific differences that easily identify their differences. So, in my estimation, a church that believes men and women should not physically appear the same should appreciate the fact that God gave men facial hair.
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