A weekly posting on the topic of submission. Join me every Tuesday as I work to expand our understanding of a commonly misunderstood calling on every Christian’s life. You can review last week’s Submission Recognition here.
I sat down at the coffee shop a few days ago and dove into a long post on one specific area we are called to submit in our lives. I enjoyed the studying that I did to prepare for the post, and I was looking forward to sharing with you what I had learned this week. I have decided to make myself wait to share it, however, because I recognize there is still introductory work to be done to fully grasp the meaning of “Submission.” Afterall, if we don’t truly understand the meaning of the word, then it will be impossible to grasp the application of it throughout scripture and in our daily lives.
Last week, I tossed a list of definitions at you to start our weekly series on submission. In an effort to be thorough, we are going to dig into these definitions a little further. As we address specific scripture verses that speak of submission, we will look closer at the original language of the text. Here are the first three definitions I offered:
To give over or yield to the power or authority of another (often used reflexively).
To subject to some kind of treatment or influence.
To present for the approval, consideration, or decision of another or others: to submit to a plan; to submit an application.
This grouping brings out some key words that should always be in mind when considering our call to submit to others. Here is a breakdown with some basic definitions (all selected from thefreedictionary.com):
- To give over possession of, as in deference or defeat; surrender.
- To give up to another; concede.
- To give way to argument, persuasion, influence, or entreaty.
- To give up one’s place, as to one that is superior.
- To submit for consideration.
- To submit to the authority of.
- To expose to something.
- To subjugate; subdue.
- To offer for observation, examination, or consideration; show or display.
- To turn or position in the direction of another.
In the pride of our flesh, there is sometimes nothing more uncomfortable than yielding, subjecting, and presenting ourselves to another person. Especially in our culture, where we are encouraged to do all we can to better ourselves above others, the idea of willingly surrendering authority is easily equated with weakness or even foolishness. Phrases like, “You are your own judge,” “Stay true to yourself, no one else matters” or “You can’t base your life on other people’s expectations” are common messages you might hear as you are encouraged to “just live your life your own way” and “be an individual.”
These are not the messages of the Jesus we know and follow, however. We are not individuals, we are a part of the body of Christ. As part of that body, we are commanded to submit to our fellow believers, to our parents, to our husbands, to our church leaders, to the governing authorities, and above all to God the Father. In everything, we are told to be humble, and count others more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4).
If you find yourself struggling to be humble in your circumstances, a healthy grasp of submission might be helpful. We are commanded to submit to God and to others – all the time. Just as Jesus lived his life in perfect submission to the Father, yielding to His authority, subjecting to His plan, and presenting his perfect life to the Father for examination and consideration, we are called to do the same. Just as Jesus lived his life in perfect submission to other people, from a childhood of submission to his parents until the grueling submission to the governing authorities that sentenced him to the cross, we are also called to live our lives in submission to other people. This is not just a one time deal, either.
This is every moment of every day.
Yield. Subject. Present. Surrender.
It might be easy to accept the command to submit to our Heavenly Father, who is fully righteous and loving. It may even be easy to accept the command to submit to government officials. Unfortunately, it is also easy to forget or ignore that we are called to submit to other people, especially our fellow Christians.
I had a Christian friend in college that I watched slowly pull away from the Church community and her Christian relationships. When I tried explain to her the importance of staying connected with other believers and continuing to attend worship, she responded strongly by asking, “Who do we report to?!” I remember feeling quite speechless. “I report to God, and God alone,” she concluded. My effort to go further in that conversation was met with stubborn resistance and I soon gave up.
The truth is, God knows us better than to leave us to our own individual authority here on Earth. We report to God, yes, but we are also given many people to “report to” in our daily life. God desires you to hand over the authority, my friend, and he desires it to be handed over to a great number of people. Submitting to those we are commanded is part of being submissive and obedient to the Father. This is for our own benefit, the betterment of the Church, and to the glory of God. While there are many passages throughout the Bible that show God sometimes approves of disobedience to authority (for example Exodus 1:17 or Daniel 3:12-18, among others), these are all instances where being obedient to authority would require disobedience to God. This series will start by looking at areas where we ARE called to submit, and later address clear exceptions.
Next week we will look at an outline of specific areas we are called to submit to the authority of others and the scripture that supports each command. In following weeks, we will look closely at each specific area. I encourage you to be thinking about the following questions:
1) To who in my life does God call me to submit?
2) In which relationships am I resisting my call to submit?
3) When does God permit me to withdraw my submission to someone in authority?
Please let me know if you have specific questions you would like to discuss or email me if you have some valuable input on the topic of submission! I would love to hear from you!