More often than not when we hear the word submission, negative connotations spring to mind. We become quite reluctant to speak about submission both inside and outside the church because it sounds outdated, weak, and painful. But it is clear from passages in scripture that submission is part of normal Christian living so it’s worth spending some time thinking about it...
What is submission? What does it look like for us?
Let’s be honest, we tend to think that we know best, and the world around us encourages us to think this is true: we deserve the best, that we know what will make us happy, that we are the ones in control of our lives. But the truth is we get it wrong, or the struggles of life take over and we realise that we were never really in control at all.
God does know what’s best. God knows us better than we know ourselves.
He knows what will make us happy and He is in ultimate control.
When we are given instructions by those in authority, we often ask: “Can I trust this person?"
In the recent months of lockdown, we all had to submit to a new way of doing things: new rules and guidelines were imposed on us by those in government. Most of us went along with the new rules because we believed and trusted that it was necessary and the right thing to do for our communities.
It is easy to submit to someone when we think they know more than us, and we trust they are acting for our good and on our behalf.
As time has gone on, and more information has become available, alternative views and approaches have been proposed. People have begun to question the wisdom of each decision and doubted many of the judgments made by those in authority. As more new restrictions were imposed, the less there was willing compliance.
It seems that we are much less inclined to submit to an authority
we aren't sure we can trust or believe in.
Christians are called to submit to those in authority over us, even when we don't agree with their position (or politics)! This isn't always easy, after all, our governors are only human and just as wayward and prone to mistakes as we are.
Of course, there are times when it's right to stand up for what is right and challenge those in authority. We are called to pursue justice and speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, and in a democracy, it is right that we hold our leaders accountable for the decisions they make. Sometimes God uses his people to remove those who are corrupt, acting in their own interests, and exploiting others.
But if we're honest these are often the exceptions.
More usually, when we kick against those in authority, it's just because we take a different view, or prefer another solution. At times like this, what we need to ask, is
“Do I believe that God has placed this person in a position
of authority over me? Do I trust Him?”
We are also called to walk humbly before God.
Wherever we are called to submit - whether it's to our government, our boss, our elders, husband, or a parent - people in positions of authority will make mistakes. People are selfish, weak, and fallible, but God is none of these things. Living in submission to God means choosing to trust him. We believe that God is in control over everything so we submit to demonstrate our trust in him and his control over the earth - including placing those in positions of authority over us. Romans 13:1 says:
‘Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.
For there is no authority except from God, and
those that exist have been instituted by God.’
Submission is the way for every Christian. None of us are exempt from being submissive to those in authority over us because all of us must submit to God. It's not easy, and it requires humility on our part - but God has promised to help us. James 4:6-7:
‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’
Humility and submission go hand in hand - and our ultimate example is the Lord Jesus.
What makes Jesus say “yet not my will but yours be done” in the Garden of Gethsemane?
He is choosing to submit to his Father. 1 Peter2:21-25 says:
"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example... When they hurled their insults at him,
he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly."
Understanding who knew best and who was the one really in control, the Lord Jesus submitted to the will of his Father, enduring insults and abuse, to the point of death for us on the cross and all that it meant for him to suffer.
To choose submission is to choose to be like the Lord Jesus.
This post is based on the discussion at a recent women's breakfast at Emmanuel Church. If you missed it but would like to join in future discussions, please get in touch and we will send you details of how to join in.
All scripture references are taken from New International Version (c) 2011