Last week God shined a light on this word that often gets a bad rap in Christian circles. We don’t disdain it in public or on purpose, but overall, if you mention this word, it gives most of us the chills.
We get turned on our ears thinking of bowing down under someone – especially if that someone is flawed and sinful as we are. It seems like too tall an order and just more than should be asked.
And then, on the other hand, we see it as a duty, a godly calling, so we attempt to go with this expectation: to submit, to set aside our self, to give in, even give up. Hard as we try, submission runs against our grain.
Last week, when I heard a talk on submission that just resonated to my bones I knew I had to share it here because maybe you will feel as I do. Maybe you will allow God to redeem you from your fear of submission.
Let’s get at the heart of the matter by deciphering who is asked to submit. If you are reading this, um, … it’s you. If you aren’t reading this, it’s you too. And, it is me.
God tells us to submit to one another out of respect for Him. He starts out Ephesians 5 by telling us to be imitators of Christ and walk in love, giving ourselves up as Christ gave Himself up. This isn’t for the wife or the woman any more than it is for the child or the servant. It is for all of us. And, if you think I’m being a bit out of line here, check out Philippians 2 where we are told to have the same mind as Christ who humbled Himself to the point of a criminal’s death on the cross. There isn’t any qualification there. No ifs ands or buts about it – we are all invited to this life of submission. Eugene Petersen uses the phrase, “Be content with obscurity.” There’s a mental image.
Let that simmer for a minute. It truly goes against the grain and it may sound like God just wants to delete each one of us and have us become nothing but bowed low and insignificant. That’s what our secret heart fears. But we can’t stay there if we consider the Cross.
He Who breathed universes into existence at a word; He Who created each of us intricately and has the ability to know the number of hairs on our head; He went to the Cross – willingly. He said, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” His submission gives each soul supreme value. Far from wanting to delete us, He wants to redeem us and calls us worthy of His own shed blood. Consider how He describes our very existence as being made in His image and “fearfully and wonderfully made” those are not the words of a God who wants to diminish us in any way. Submission is not the deleting of the individuality He created and loves.
Submission is an invitation to walk with Him into the way of humility and sacrifice. As He did it for the joy set before Him, we can too.
But, you haven’t even heard the most redemptive part of he whole thing. When you study the Greek word used for “submit” in Ephesians 5 it isn’t the word used for “obey” as in verses directed towards children or servants. It is the word which was used in the military – to fall under another. Yet, we are to submit to one another – to one another – this isn’t a ranking where one person is seen as more important than another and therefore has the right to lord over them in authority. Submission is first of all mutual, and secondly rooted in a loving, spirit-filled relationship.
And here’s the beauty: when we fall under someone, take the place underneath them, what is our role? We are in a position of support. We are like the strong beams which hold up a bridge making it able to bear weight and stand through storms. It takes strength like that to submit and support. And, as the man who enlightened me on this said, “Who can argue with that?” Can you hear the invitation? Wives, support your husbands. Husbands, support your wives. Christians, support one another.
And, yes, if you want to be specific about it, we women have a special invitation because our husbands need our support. We have a unique ability to support them in a way no other person on the planet can do. It doesn’t mean we delete our personhood. It doesn’t mean we say “yes” at all times – sometimes support means disagreeing or shining light on difficult issues by speaking the truth in love. But whatever we do, we do it in light of support. We support our husband because we are called to this privilege and it is our gift to him as we love God within our marriage. We can even support him when it means losing a little something in the process. We can give to our husband and show him that in this whole world, even when the chips are down there is one person in his corner no matter what.
God is the God of redemption and His ways are higher than ours. He died for freedom – to set us free – and He is relentlessly pursuing that freedom in and for each of us. Believe it or not, submission is part of that way of freedom. As we submit to (support) one another, we are walking in His love and we are becoming more like Him in the process. And we experience the deep inner peace that is always the fruit of righteousness. All week long I’ve heard the whisper, “Support him …” as I have walked side by side with my husband through life. Tonight my husband looked me in the eyes and said, “Thank you for believing in me.” It is the blessing of submission that he doesn’t feel alone in the world and he is experiencing God’s love through my support.
* I am deeply grateful to Pastor Jeff Harrington for his excellent sermon on submission – you can hear it here if you are interested. http://dovecreekbible.com/media/sermons/
Photo of Avila Pier by Alexis Barney courtesy of Bing Images