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)

Messages women need to hear from leading men in the conservative evangelical Church


Statements from the president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Paige Patterson,  have stirred up a dark message I heard as a young girl and still hear as a 43 year old woman in the conservative evangelical American church. The message goes something like this:

Being a Christ-like means being passive, quiet, soft-spoken…don’t upset the apple cart. Being a Christian woman especially means you exist to please men, serve men, and submit to men. When people hurt you, turn the other cheek and don’t say anything.

Those messages are the dark hiding place for abusive men. And they aren’t Biblical. But it’s the message I heard as a girl.  I heard a lot of teaching about wives being submissive to their husbands, that they should be quiet, and that Christians turn the other cheek.  I accepted these messages and formed my relationship with my husband at the young age of 19 with those messages in mind.  After 24 years of tumultuous marriage marked by unhealthy cycles of separation and “reconciliation,” I found myself ready to file for a divorce in a marriage counselor’s office. There, unhealthy patterns, both on my part and my husband’s that helped hide and grow sin in our lives, were exposed.  A lot of my unhealthy thinking came from growing up in a church environment where submission, anti-divorce and turn the other cheek was preached but condemnation of abuse, the empowerment of women’s voices, and true Christian love which deals with people’s sin rather it hiding them wasn’t.

When I read Mr. Patterson’s statements this old, disgusting feeling crept up in me.  I realized that I wasn’t the only one who had experienced the dark, unhealthy thinking where abusers hide in the church.  Although my husband has never been abusive, the unhealthy patterns of not dealing with the sin in my husband’s life because I thought I was supposed to be quiet to be loved by men and God allowed an evil to grow that nearly destroyed our marriage. That kind of thinking is the kind of thinking women in abusive relationships have.  They  hunker down in churches where pastors aren’t exposing abusive thinking, quietly telling themselves that to love their husbands and obey God they needed to be quiet and endure abuse.

Passages in the Bible such as Matthew 5:38-42 where Jesus teaches us to, “turn the other cheek,” can be confusing to people living in abusive, unjust or unhealthy situations. In fact the whole crux of Christian living- that we take up our crosses and follow Jesus– can be misconstrued as a call to live passive lives enduring abuse in the name of Jesus. The concept of being Christ-like can be miscommunicated as being doormat-like to the people on the receiving end of the abuse of power. Passages that teach submission can be communicated in such a way that women in abusive marriages or women living with husbands who abuse alcohol/drugs, use pornography, commit adultery, lie pathologically, and other sins which destroy the trust in a marriage, feel like if they are going to be Christlike and pleasing to God they must quietly endure.

I believe in the complementary nature of the male/female relationship.  We are made for each other, to help each other. But women are not first and foremost made for men.

I believe we are called to self-sacrificially love each other.  But love abhors the evil of abuse. It exposes darkness. It’s love that compels us to call each other out on sins such as abuse, adultery, pornography use, etc.  And in some of these cases, loving each other self-sacrificially may mean losing the man your married to because he has to go to jail or to an inpatient treatment program.

Because abusers of power can twist precious truths in scripture and use it against those who are on the receiving end of their abuse, pastors must shine light where these wolves are hiding in their churches.  A few months ago I heard my pastor preaching on marriage from Ephesians, and it was the first time I had heard a pastor say, “Listen, I’m afraid that I’m going to teach what this passage says to you wives and some of you are going to think I’m saying you should stay in your abusive situations. I’m not!”  It was like someone opened the door to a very dark dungeon and let the first glimpse of light in a room that has been festering with things that love the darkness for too long.

No doubt being a Christian means we will endure suffering.  Jesus said that and modeled that very clearly.  But there needs to be a very clear message from the pulpits of churches, a message that Jesus brought, that God hates abuse of power and taking advantage of those in vulnerable positions.  We women need to hear our brothers in Christ standing up there in their positions of leadership in the church saying, “If you are an abusive man, we will not tolerate your abuse! You can not hide in this church behind passages in the Bible directed at self-sacrificial men and women who love Jesus.”

We also need to hear the message of empowerment of women’s voices. We need to hear Jesus’ men in positions of leadership say, “Sisters, we don’t want you to be silent! The Bible doesn’t want you to be silent! Jesus wants you to address the sin of your brothers, husbands, dads, pastors, teachers, etc.”  As a woman in the conservative, evangelical American church, it’s the silence from our brothers that speaks the loudest.  But thank God the silence is being broken.

I know there are men who love Jesus, who affirm women, protect them, empower them, stand behind them, and lead them in self-sacrificing ways.  And I’m so thankful.  We need to hear from you brothers!  We need to hear you being like Paul to Peter and calling out leaders in the church who are getting it wrong when it comes to loving, leading, protecting and empowering women like Jesus does. We need you to be like our Good Shepherd and take on the wolves. We need to hear you in the pulpits.  We need to hear you telling us what Jesus told us, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers...”