Someone once said to me, ” If you only submit yourself to people you agree with you’re not submitting yourself to anyone. You’re hanging out with people you agree with, but you’re not submitting yourself to anyone.” The point being, at the root of what it means to submit yourself to another person is the fact that you won’t agree with the person on something.
The word submit, or submission is not a word associated with anything positive in our culture. You don’t see submission to others as one of the habits of highly effective people. But in the Kingdom where Christ rules, submission to others is an evidence of one’s freedom as a Christian as well as a tribute of high honor to the King of kings who submitted himself to all kinds of evil people, setting an example for us. The way of Jesus among us turns our world upside-down. We strive for power and position. Jesus submitted himself to others and lowered himself taking the form of a servant, even lowering himself to the place of a criminal bearing a punishment he did not deserve.
Unwillingness to submit yourself to other people is one of those indicators that you’re still holding on to your own life. And in doing so you’re gonna loose it. But Jesus said to take up your cross and follow him. He said that if you loose your life for his sake, living by his Spirit, and for the gospel’s sake, spreading the news of God’s mercy and love toward mankind through Christ, you would find real life. Submitting yourself to other people, people you don’t always agree with, is one way to take up your cross and follow Jesus. It shows that your identity, your hope is not something you have to make for yourself, nor is it given to you by your position or the position of another. When you know you are Christ’s, you can lower your life to places others consider “low”, you can speak the truth in love and be mocked and opposed by those in positions of authority over you and not be a victim.
One of my favorite passages of scripture is John 13. It’s the famous last supper scene before Jesus would take my sins and the sins of all his people on himself and suffer a horrific death at the hands of those he willingly submitted himself to. But before he did all that, before he even knelt down to wash his disciples and his betrayer’s feet, the scriptures say, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:3-5)
Before Jesus submitted himself to his own disciples, to his betrayer, to the leaders of Israel who came to arrest him, to Pilate, first he knew who he was. He knew the authority he had. He knew where he came from and he knew where he was going. He didn’t have to prove himself by pulling out swords or breaking Judas’ toes (which seems like a reasonable option to me). He had every right to stop all the mad, evil authority being used against him, but he didn’t. He submitted himself to the atrocities about to occur and willingly laid down his life. And he did this because he knew he wasn’t a victim. He knew his Father was in control. He knew death couldn’t hold him down. He knew he would save me.
This is the example he set for us, but it is also the same power he has given us. We are God’s sons and daughters. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is going to give us new life too. No misused authority of any person in our life is unnoticed by our Father. He is using all of our lowering of ourselves with the gospel on our lips to save his people.
I think the word submission in the Christian world gets a bad wrap and often a wrong definition. Growing up in the church culture I did, I had a very warped view of what Christ-like submission means, especially as a woman. But as I’ve grown in knowing Christ I’ve come to see that Christ-like submission is simply the eagle dive of freedom in a Chritian’s life. We go low not because of our sex, status, race or position. We go low because we are free to do so, and while we’re there we’re going to plant the gospel in the lives of those around us, and whatever Satan means for evil is gonna swallow him alive, because nothing but life can come out of our lives.
So the quesiton is:
Wives are you unwilling to submit yourself to your husband? Have you consider it may be because you haven’t truly believed that you are utterly free in Christ?
Husbands, are you unwilling to lay down your life for your wife? Could it be that you still don’t believe that Christ has promised you abundant life that no one can drain away?
Men and women, are you unwilling to submit yourself to your local church? Is it possible that you have forgotten that you are an adopted, grafted-in member of the household of God by the costly grace of Christ alone?
Saint, remember who you are. Remember what Christ has done for you. Embrace your identity in Christ and set all your hope on his promise to make all things new. And then lower yourself under the authority of someone you don’t always agree with. As Ephesians says, “Be imitators of God as dearly loved children… submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:1,21)