Submission to others as a child of God


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Who do you submit to?

I know, it’s a weird thought isn’t it? Uncomfortable. I feel defensive as soon as I ask it. “I don’t submit to anyone!” Is my instinctual reaction. But it’s really not true. We all submit to other people in our lives. If we didn’t, anarchy would reign.

We all do it, but we don’t like it

The truth is we all submit ourselves to someone else throughout our lives. When we’re children we submit to our parents’ rules. In our relationships with spouse or friends one or the other yields to the other person at different times in the relationship. When we drive, live in our HOA-governed neighborhoods, engage in learning in school or college we submit to the lawmakers, teachers, police officers, etc.

Even though it’s irrefutable- we all submit to other people in our lives- we don’t like it! We’re always resisting authority, from the time we’re two, learning what mom means when she says, “No!”, to the way we speed down the highway disregarding the posted limit, looking out for those blue and red lights so we can slow down before they catch us. Submission to others is an unwelcome, necessary part of life for there to be order and peace.

Authority abuse

But what about when the authorities are using their power to impose a law or rule or requirement on us that we know is wrong? Where do we get the sense that what they’re asking is wrong? Where do we get our sense of what’s just and right?  As a Christian, I believe that we all have this sense of right and wrong within us because we are the Imago Dei ones. We were made in the image of God, and the moral goodness of God is imprinted on our souls. But it’s also marred. We know that even those in positions of authority do what’s wrong and impose oppressive wrongs on those under their authority. And we ourselves display the same brokenness we see in the authorities we call out and rale against.

As a Christian, submission is a word tainted in my mind by the evil we all at times display. As my old pastor used to say, I wish I could reach in my brain through my ear and erase all the old input about what submission means. I can’t do that, but I wonder if you’d look at John 13 with me to see what submission really means, and what, as a Christian it should look like.

Christ the submitting King

In John 13, Jesus is hours from facing the authorities who will mock, beat and finally kill him. In a room where his disciples have gathered to remember the old, old story about how God had delivered their people from slavery with the blood of the lamb on their homes and angry Pharaoh and his army chasing them to the sea, it says Jesus did something that blew his disciples’ minds. He washed their feet.

They thought they knew who he was. He was the long-awaited Messiah, the King of Israel, the Anointed Son of God come to save his people just like Moses had all those years before out of Egypt, only now, from the Romans. They believed he was THE king. And there was their king, getting on the floor with water, basin and towel, washing their grimy feet. And while he was down there on the floor, the King of Heaven, who made their feet, and knew the evil in their hearts, exposed Peter, and called out his betrayer. There, each disciple wondered if it was them their King was calling out. The knew they were a broken bunch. There, Judas, who Jesus made, Jesus washed, and sent to do the deed that would lead to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.

Jesus knew who he was when he performed this jaw-dropping act of submission- washing feet and exposing his disciples’ sinful hearts. In the first verses of John 13 it says:

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father… 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…” John 13:1-5

Jesus knew his hour had come to submit himself to rulers who were going to kill him. He knew impulsive Peter was going to deny him. He knew Judas would betray him and kill himself. He knew all of his disciples would run away from the scandal he was about to become. He also knew he had all authority. He knew no one could really take his life from him or take away his position as Son of God through denial or betrayal or abandonment. He knew God was doing something greater than letting his son be killed. He knew he was the resurrection and the life.

This is submission. And this is what Christian submission should look like.

It really has nothing to do with women, as many in church history and abusive male authorities have taught. It has nothing to do with sex, rank, class, pedigree or geography. It has everything to do with Christ. The broken way we all begrudgingly submit to others and look for ways to avoid submitting, vying for the right to put ourselves in the position with someone under us, is not what God does. It’s what we do in our sinful selves. But Jesus came to show us what it really looks like to submit to others. And the Holy Spirit came to empower us to submit to others like Jesus did.

We who believe Jesus is the Christ, placing our hope in his atoning death and resurrection for being made right with God- we are children of God! We are not slaves. We are not victims of our circumstances.

Just as Jesus stood in that room of disciples, knowing who he was, where he came from, where he was going and out of that confidence in the Father, lowered himself under those he could have destroyed at his command, we, children of God must know who we are. We must know where we came from and where we’re going and lower ourselves. And in the lowering, we must expose wickedness and evil with the humility and power Jesus did.

Submission is not turning a blind eye to oppressive authority. It’s not passive piety. It’s not Pilate-like refusal to do what’s right. It’s not a wife thinking she has no voice in her marriage or church because she’s a woman. It’s not enabling a man to think he has the right to rule because he’s male. Submission is Christlikeness. Submission to others like Christ trusts God, obeys God, gets low to lift others up, expose dirt and sends out the evil from its midst because it knows God is in control and will not abandon us.

So child of God, who are you submitting yourself to?

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil… giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. –  Ephesians 5:15,20

Christian Submission: The eagle dive of freedom

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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)

Confessions of a comfort addict

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I’m getting nervous ya’ll.

On Monday I start the capstone class for my BSN. I’ve been trying to sit with this uneasiness and discern where it’s coming from.  I’ve decided it’s just the discomfort of being stretched beyond my zone.

I’m a comfort addict.  And a chronic conflict-avoider. Those scriptures about God being the God of all comfort and his children being peacemakers I can easily twist to say God doesn’t want me uncomfortable and we’ll just sweep that problem under the rug and try to forget about it.


Can’t do it.

I might try twisting, but the truth just snaps back into place and stings.

God is a God of all comfort and he leads me through very uncomfortable stretching so I can experience HIM as my comfort, not my circumstances. And Christ is the Chief Peacemaker, promising to bless me if I follow him in making peace. But he leads me in doing this by taking up a cross, bearing pain to deal with my sin and the sins of others. Loving, forgiving and enduring.  He doesn’t lead me in heaping up more and more trouble under the rug of my life.

So what does my passivity and comfort-lust have to do with my capstone class and completing my BSN? It has to do with entering the stretching zone knowing full-well, this is leading me to less comfortable circumstances and more cross-bearing.

There’s comfort in staying in a position I know well and could practically do with my eyes closed.  There’s much poking, prodding and acid-stomach  in stepping into a position of formal leadership in nursing, which is where I sense I’m being guided.

But there’s a whiff of refreshment blowing in the wind as I turn down this rocky road.  He who began a good work in me, will be faithful to complete it. He is working all things together for my good to conform me to the image of Christ.  And one day I will see with my eyes the Scar-Bearing King of the Universe, who bore a bloody cross to lead me, and scandalously, he will say, “Well done! Sit here. What can I get you to eat?”

Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. ‘ Luke 12:37

Take me with you Jesus!

A theology of loving your unbelieving spouse

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A Facebook friend recently asked a question after reading my piece about the 8 words. Her question in essence was, “How does God want you to love your husband when he doesn’t share the same love of Christ you have?”

I’m not a seminary graduate, but as my pastor says, I am a theologian.  We all are, he says. We may be bad theologians, but we all believe something about who God is or what God does and says, and that’s theology.  Of course my nearly 25 year marriage to a man I dearly love, who does not love Christ with me, is a long enough walk down this road to test what I believe about God on this subject.

So from my theological understanding of marriage in the scriptures, the husband and wife relationship, above all relationships speaks of the ultimate purpose of all human beings- to be in a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ laid his life down for us (the church) in love so that we could be united with him and say, “My beloved is mine and I am his.” To be in such a bond with Christ is the fulfillment of human existence.  When a husband and wife don’t share a love of Christ, the brokenness in that relationship is so apparent that the way you love your unbelieving husband or wife looks more like the way you love any person who doesn’t believe and less like the way Christ and his church love one another.  In other words you loose the intimate union and live in a separate but together state. Paul put it this way:

‘Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”‘ 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

In a marriage where Christ is not the mutual highest object of affection and hope, the couple have no lasting intimate partnership, no fellowship, no accord, no portion together, no agreement.  There is a separation where there should be oneness. This doesn’t mean the believer and unbeliever have nothing in common. And it doesn’t mean there isn’t grace for both of them.  There is common grace and common ground between the believer and the unbeliever.  But there is not partnership or union at the deepest level of identity, hope and joy.  They don’t share the same love.

Now, this doesn’t mean we should “go out from their midst and separate from” our spouses.  Paul makes that clear:

‘To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. ‘ 1 Corinthians 7:12-17

There is no common love of Christ in a marriage between the unbeliever and the believer. But there is a holiness.  The fellowship and oneness intended to grow out of mutual love for Christ is not present.  But a set-apartness is.

There is a way in which you “come out from among” a marriage to an unbeliever that doesn’t mean divorcing or leaving them.  You are set apart, and so are they, and so are your children.  There is a mission, a ministry, like that of the missionary setting his love and life on a people group who do not know Jesus.  The aim in a marriage to an unbeliever is not a united front to pour out your mutual love of Christ on others.  It is a calling on the believer to not go the way of the unbelieving spouse’s idols and pseudo-saviors. It’s a calling not to join them in loving the world, but to come out from among them and let the love of Christ compel you to lay down your life to win them to Christ.

I know some will say staying in a marriage to an unbeliever to win them to Christ is not a good reason to stay married.  I say that is exactly what the scripture says is the reason a believer should stay in the marriage. For, “For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” (‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭7:16)

Does that mean if your spouse doesn’t become a believer or wants out of the marriage you’ve failed?  No!  God may use your faithfulness to save your spouse, or he may not. But if the ubnbeliever is willing to stay married to you it’s a really great possibility that’s totally in God’s hands and worth investing your life in.

Staying in a marriage to an unbeliever with a missional heart to win your husband or wife to Christ is right. And it is not a manipulative or enabling or unhealthy co-dependent emeshment.  Loving your husband or wife with a desire to win them to Christ is not self-preserving or sin-enabling.  Loving your husband or wife with a desire win them to Christ may be the very thing that causes them to no longer want to be married to you.  You have to hold your marriage with an open hand.  The goal is not to prevent loosing the marriage.  The goal is glorifying God by loving your spouse.  You may loose your marriage and win your spouse to Christ.  Or not.  You don’t stay in the marriage and love your spouse so that you’ll get the outcome you want.  You stay in the marriage and love your spouse because the love of Christ compels you.  Love of God supersedes love of spouse, even as the reason for your faithfulness and vulnerable love towards your spouse.

Does that mean the believer’s love for the unbeliever is not real because it is not the fantastical romantic love we idolize?  No!  The love a believer has for his or her unbelieving spouse is very real, very Christ-like, if it is compelled by Christ’s love, not fear of loosing the spouse, not an insatiable need for the spouse to fulfill you. And in this way, loving an unbelieving spouse is a good example for how even believing spouses should love one another.  We all, in all marriages, have to bear the pain of the other’s sin.  No Christian husband or wife will fulfill you.  Only Christ does that.  As C.S. Lewis influenced me to say, if I find in myself desires which this marriage can’t satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another “marriage.”   That truth applies to all marriages, to believers and unbelievers.

This could really be a long post.  Um, it already is a long post.  So I’ll try to respond more directly to the question that spurred this on.

Q- How does Christ (my heavenly Husband) ask me to love my husband who doesn’t share my same love?

Response- With open hands (1 Corinthians 7).  With laid down life (John 15:13). With willingness to loose my marriage (1 Corinthians 7:15).  With willingness to stand opposed and willingness to submit myself (1 Peter 3:13-17).  With hope in God, not in husband.  With fearlessness of many frightening things (1 Peter 3:6). With faith that I am here for such a time as this.  With prayers that God will bring my beloved to his senses and save him (2 Timothy 2:25-26). With hope that the labor Christ is working in me to love my husband is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Will Christian nurses lead the way in providing healthcare for the marginalized?



In the days of the Norwegian awakening in 1850, the revival of faith in Christ among Christians sparked a birth of an order of service to the sick and poor.  The Kaiserswerth deaconesses began serving their communities as trained nurses out of a renewed joy of their salvation in Jesus. Their renewed fervor for Christ effected their involvement in their meeting the needs of those on the margins in their society (Shelley and Miller. 2006).  That’s what happens when your heart is ablaze with hope and love from the Spirit of Christ. It’s always been that way for Christians.

Paul, in the Bible, was urged by the apostles, when he was new to the faith to, “remember the poor,” and be generous in helping meet their needs.

Tertullian spoke of the reputation of early Christians when he said, “It is our care of the helpless, our practice of loving-kindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. “Only look,” they say, “how they love one another! Look how they are prepared to die for one another.” (Shelley and Miller, 2006)

Ancient historian Eusebius of Caesarea wrote, “The Christians were the only people who amid such terrible ills, showed their fellow-feelings and humanity by their actions. Day by day some would busy themselves by attending to the dead and burying them; others gathered in one spot all who were afflicted by hunger throughout the whole city and give them bread.” (Shelley and Miller, 2006)

As Shelley and Miller point out in their book, there’s a distinct way nursing, apart from other healthcare professions, displays Christlikeness. That distinct characteristic is hands-on service of others.  Not that doctors, PA’s, therapists and assistants don’t give hands-on service, but nursing, of all those professions is an army of people who provide hands-on, bedside service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to the ill and  injured.

It being national nurse’s week, I thought it a good time to think out loud (post a blog) about what I am asking God might be the role of nurses in the U.S. burdened healthcare system.  And I’m thinking from a Christian perspective.

I know the push nationally and politically is for nurses to become the primary providers of healthcare in the U.S.  It’s less expensive and there are more of us to meet the needs of our aging population.  But as a Christian, I see those the healthcare system, even if driven  by nurses, won’t care for.  Like the deaconesses of the 1850’s I see the marginalized in our society and I wonder, “What’s my role? How can I just ignore this need?”  And it’s an enormous need!

The elderly, disabled, orphaned, medically fragile, mentally ill, homeless, poor and ethnic minority population in our country is no small margin of folks.  The elderly alone make up the greatest and fastest growing portion of our population. The U.S. healthcare system can’t and won’t be able to meet the needs of so many of these people.  People, made in the image of God.

I wonder if God would raise up an American army of nursing deaconesses in his church who would give freely in our communities the provision of hands-on service to those who will never be able to pay for our services. I wonder if we would cleansing wounds, change diapers, give medications, assist in ambulation, relieve pain, provide resources, and speak the gospel into the lives of those our healthcare system will never be able to care for.

Jesus calls those who follow him to serve and love like he does.  In fact, it is he who works in us Christians to will and act the way he does. Christian nurses have a great opportunity ahead of us in the U.S.  If we will follow Jesus, surely we will be driven by our Servant-King’s love to give to those who can’t give back and to lay our lives down for those Jesus would redeem.

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Matthew 20:26-28


Hope grows where the light shines

rucola-salad-plant-leaf.jpgThe tension was thick. My husband and I sat opposite ends of a 6 foot couch and 23 years of piled up trouble from each other in a last ditch effort to save our marriage.

“Well, what about you?  Your wife shared where she thinks some of her wrong thinking has come from. What do you think has influence your thinking in your relationship?” the counselor prodded.

“Well, um, when my parents were getting a divorce I had to go to some class and I remember the adult there asking me to draw a picture.  I drew a picture of my family at the fair.  My mom and sister and I were all going on rides and my dad was sitting on a bench. I guess if I had to think about where my bad habits came from maybe they came from what I learned from my dad.  I guess I’m kind of on the bench?”

I was floored.  I sat at the opposite end of that couch in the counselor’s office listening to the man I was ready to legally cut out of my life and for the first time I felt a glimmer of hope.  It wasn’t so much what he said, it was that he said what he said because I had finally stopped being quiet.  I had thought for sure that by speaking up, taking a stand, calling him out I was putting the marriage to an end. But hope was springing up it’s verdant head up out of the light-deprived soil of my messed-up marriage because I had exposed a dark area and said, “No more!”

I didn’t grow up thinking that’s what godliness looks like.  It certainly wasn’t what I was taught a Christian woman looks like.  But hope was rising out of the dark place where my complacency had let things that love the darkness hide because as hopeless as I was, the love of Christ was compelling me to stop clinging to my life and love my husband by speaking the truth!  The proverbial scales were falling from my eyes and for the first time I could see that loving my husband didn’t mean hiding his sin for him under a rug of passiveness. It sounds so obvious, but when you’re blind, hopeless, stuck in a cycle of enabling sin, it’s not obvious at all.

Jesus said, “If you’re brother sins against you, go tell him…”  When he was about to face the cross and knew Judas would betray him and Peter would deny him, he called them out on it. In fact, every time Jesus interacted with people caught up in a sinful pattern of living, he exposed it and dealt with it. But somehow, growing up I heard that as a woman I shouldn’t do that.  I should be quiet.  I should be submissive.  I should turn the other cheek. Somehow I ended up 23 years into a marriage thinking if I wanted to be Christlike I would just hide one offense after another under my passiveness rug and try to stomp down the big lump that formed.

Hope sprung up for me that day in the marriage counselor’s office because the love of Christ was moving me to expose sin, not hide it.  Hope was shinning in that room because the love of Christ was saying through me, “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. We’re dealing with this.”  Hope had been buried under a heap of offenses piled under a rug I called forgiveness.  It needed light.  It needed to be exposed to the light that says, “Let me wash your feet. You’re dirty.”  Just when I thought there was no hope at all, and that surely my pulling the rug off that pile of sins in the counselor’s office was going to end what I thought I had fought for by shoving more garbage under the rug, my husband opened his heart and let me wash his feet.

Hope is a beautiful growth of goodness in the land of the living.  And the living are a mess.  It’s the springing up of something that breaths life and grows.  But it has to spring up out of dirt. And it can’t spring up if it isn’t exposed to the light. Ugly things may come to light, but they get dealt with in the light. Hope grows where the light shines.

“But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:13-14