Dreadlocks have become a popular hairstyle today, worn by people from all walks of life. However, many Christians wonder about the biblical and spiritual implications of wearing dreadlocked hair. As followers of Jesus Christ, we want to make sure our actions and appearance reflect His values and glorify Him. In this post, we will explore what the Bible says about dreadlocks and their symbolic meanings for Christians.
Dreadlocks form naturally in hair that is allowed to grow out without being combed, brushed, or cut. Over time, the hair begins to twist and coil together into rope-like locks. While dreadlocks are often associated with Rastafarianism today, people and religious groups have worn them throughout history, including ancient Christianity.
For Christians seeking to follow biblical principles, several key questions arise regarding dreadlocks:
- What symbolic meanings did dreadlocks have in the Bible?
- Do dreadlocks reflect rebellion against authority or established norms?
- Should our hairstyles be culturally set apart and distinct as Christians?
- Does the Bible prohibit certain hairstyles?
- How should we apply biblical principles about hair to this modern style?
While the Bible does not specifically mention dreadlocked hair, exploring its symbolism around hair and cultural identity can provide guidance for Christians considering dreadlocks today. The key is pursuing motives based on honoring God, avoiding vanity, and emphasizing inner character over outward appearance.
The Nazirite Vow and Dreadlocks in the Bible
One of the closest biblical connections to dreadlocks is the Nazirite vow described in Numbers 6. The Nazirite vow was a voluntary act to show special devotion to God for a period of time. Three key requirements of the Nazirite vow were:
- Abstain from wine and fermented drink
- Avoid cutting one’s hair
- Avoid contact with corpses and dead bodies
Regarding hair, Numbers 6:5 states:
“All the days of the vow of his separation no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.” (NKJV)
By avoiding haircuts and allowing their hair to grow untouched, Nazirites would develop long dreadlock-like hair as a symbolic display of their consecration to God. Their hair set them apart visually for spiritual devotion.
Samson serves as a famous example of a lifelong Nazirite who possessed extraordinary strength while maintaining his uncut dreadlocked hair (Judges 13:5, 16:17). His long hair mirrored his spiritual commitment to God. However, once it was cut, Samson lost his strength along with the visual symbol of his dedication.
While Christians today do not take Nazirite vows, this biblical background provides insight into ancient perceptions of dreadlocked hair as a spiritual symbol. The unattended growth of dreadlocks resembled the Nazirite hair of unusual length and volume.
Rebellion or Distinction?
Given the ritual symbolism of Nazirite hair, an important question arises – did dreadlocks inherently symbolize rebellion or distinction in biblical times?
On one hand, dreadlocks may have been viewed as rebellious simply for looking different and unusual compared to the cultural norm of maintained hair. The uncultivated growth of dreadlocks represents a break from regular cultural practices regarding hair care.
Additionally, in some historical periods, the wearing of dreadlocks has been associated with religious rituals considered pagan or uncivilized by groups like the ancient Greeks and Romans. So dreadlocks could symbolize rebellion against mainstream cultural values and religion.
However, the Nazirite vow illustrates how dreadlocks clearly symbolized spiritual distinction and consecration to God within ancient Judaism. Thus, biblical dreadlocks likely carried a complex blend of meaning – visually rebelling against cultural norms of grooming, while representing devotion to God above man’s conventions.
Called to Be Set Apart
As Christians, we know that rebelling just for the sake of rebellion or attention often stems from ungodly motives. But distinguishing ourselves from the world in order to devote ourselves to God is a righteous calling. We are instructed:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 ESV)
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15 ESV)
Being set apart from the sinful ways of the world does not mean isolating ourselves completely or avoiding all cultural practices. But as Christians, we should thoughtfully consider how our decisions align with biblical values versus superficial fads and customs.
In cultures where trimmed and styled hair is the norm, allowing one’s hair to naturally dread may symbolize a shift in priority from pleasing people to pleasing God. Dreadlocks illustrate a willingness to be different in order to adhere to God’s higher standards versus man’s norms.
Focusing on Inner Character
However, while special hair may reflect a consecrated heart, God always emphasizes inner character over outward appearances. Man judges by appearance, but God judges the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
In warning about improper pride, 1 Peter 3:3-4 instructs:
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
Regarding dreadlocks, this means one’s motives and character must match the visual symbolism portrayed. True devotion to God will manifest itself in Christlike love, humility, righteousness, and service to others.
Dreadlocks should remind wearers and observers of their higher commitment to please the Lord, not draw attention to themselves. We must continually check our hearts to prevent dreadlocks from feeding any inner pride or vanity.
Outward distinction alone means nothing to God without inward transformation. This principle applies not just to hair but other visual displays of piety like clothing styles.
Old Testament Guidance on Hairstyles
To understand biblical principles for hairstyles, we can look at additional Old Testament instructions. While these laws are not binding under the new covenant, they reveal God’s values.
God specifically prohibited certain pagan hairstyles in Leviticus 19:27:
“You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard.”
This likely refers to distinctive styles like partially shaved heads and trimmed beards associated with idol worship. God commanded separation from such cultural styles that reflected rebellion against Him.
Additionally, Deuteronomy 22:5 states:
“A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”
This discouraged cross-gender behavior, enforcing distinction between male and female. Thus in ancient Israel, men were prohibited from adopting distinctly feminine hairstyles, jewelry, or clothing. Gender distinction honored God’s creative order.
These verses do not forbid dreadlocks outright. But they do reveal principles of:
- Distinguishing God’s people from pagan cultural practices
- Upholding distinction between male and female
- Avoiding cultural rebellion without righteous motive
Principles for Christians Considering Dreadlocks
In summary, what guidelines do these biblical perspectives provide for Christians considering dreadlocks today?
- Consider spiritual motives: Ask yourself honestly – why am I doing this? Is it to rebel for vain attention or to devote myself to God? What inner convictions are driving this outward change? The heart is what matters most to God.
- Avoid explicit cultural rebellion: Dreadlocks may symbolize acceptable distinction from mainstream culture. But knowingly mimicking hairstyles created exclusively for non-Christian religious rituals would directly disobey New Testament principles. Discern when distinction becomes rebellion.
- Focus on Christian values: Do not let standing out externally become a distraction from embodying Christian virtues – kindness, humility, righteousness, compassion. Outward appearance should point people to Christ’s love.
- Maintain distinction between genders: While some dreadlock styles may be worn by both men and women, uphold general biblical principles of distinguishing male and female in hairstyles and presentation.
- Be sensitive: Consider how dreadlocks are perceived by other Christians and nonbelievers. Be aware that for some, they symbolize divisive rebellion. Don’t let your freedom in Christ become a stumbling block.
- Aim for biblical transformation: Remember that God sees the heart and cares more about inward renewal than outward displays. Let dreadlocks remind you of your dedication to please God alone in all areas of life.
The Bible does not definitively prohibit dreadlocks – but sets principles for Christians to follow regarding cultural distinction, gender roles, obedience, and inward versus outward emphasis. With thoughtful discernment and right motives, dreadlocks can reflect devotion to God over man’s expectations.
Conclusion & Key Takeaways
In conclusion, here are some key biblical takeaways for Christians considering dreadlocks:
- In the Old Testament, dreadlocks symbolized the consecration of Nazirites like Samson who took a vow to devote themselves completely to God.
- Dreadlocks visually rebel against cultural norms of grooming hair. But rebellion without righteous motive is wrong. Separation to God is right.
- As Christians we are called to be set apart from the sinful world by renewing our minds and hearts. This distinguishes our priorities and values.
- Outward displays like hairstyles are meaningless without true inner transformation. We must avoid improper pride and vanity.
- Certain pagan cultural styles that dishonor God and gender roles are prohibited. But dreadlocks are not directly forbidden.
- Christians should thoughtfully and prayerfully evaluate their motives and the cultural perceptions of dreadlocks today. Focus on pleasing God above all.
The heart is what matters most to God. With the right motives, dreadlocks can symbolize prioritizing God’s values above man’s norms. But they hold no spiritual power in themselves apart from an inner commitment to know, love and obey Jesus Christ.