Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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I am a Sunday school teacher and I was faced with a question that requires research before responding. The question: Is hair coloring (dyeing) a sin for Christians and also for clergy? I understand that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and it is our responsibility to take good care of it; however I could not find anything specifically that says coloring your hair is wrong or a sin. Some youth and even some deacons posed this question. One deacon specifically said, “I like growing my ‘goatee-beard’ but I have gray hair, and at times, I color it black; now is that a sin or wrong?”

As a Sunday school teacher I take great caution as not to provide personal opinion or a wrong answer. Is it wrong or a sin to color hair?

It is not a sin, but words of caution according to St. Paul can provide wisdom to godly youth seeking to do what is right. People live in a social climate where apparel, appearance, personal hygiene, and professionalism have weight and significance in society. First, we should never be steered by fads or trends. It is important that a person balances what is appropriate for modest Christians with their particular interests and not by what is permissible measured by society's new norms.

The Apostle Paul instructs the young bishop, Timothy, about appearance and godliness: "I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works" (1 Timothy 2:8-10).

It is best to use the following 4 criteria according to St. Paul to address these concerns:

  1. Is it befitting of Christians?

  2. Is it edifying?

  3. Is it offensive to others?

  4. Is it controlling my mind and behavior?

In St. Paul's description, he is trying to provide a visual example for St. Timothy by outlining some guidelines for his flock. At that time, tight fitted clothing and sleeveless apparel were not an issue, neither was hair coloring. These were the social issues with which they were confronted at that time. In today's society, we are confronted with hair coloring that is not even of a normal hair color, such as purple, blue, pink. Thus, if we take St. Paul's general advice into account, he is saying, Christians ought to not dress in any way that is considered outlandish, provokes attention, or is seductive. Modesty is key for all Christians, both men and women. In addition, Christians should never flaunt beauty, wealth, or anything that would distract others from seeing them and knowing them as Christians, first and foremost.
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