That Dirty Word… “Submission”

Sitting on a back porch with a friend many years ago, he asked me, “Are you sure that you have the right motive for the decision that you want to make?”

My response: “I’m not sure any decision that I have ever made has been completely free of selfish motives.” My friend’s reaction was a quiet way of warning me. My reaction was a glib way of not listening.

The Book of James, chapter three, says:

If you have selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and lie against the truth. (verse 14)

Let’s all be honest, we make a lot of our decisions from selfish desires, impurity, and a desire for money or power. It is a given. We are in the flesh and the signatory marks of the flesh are impurity, power, and materialism. We aren’t out of the flesh yet, so it is impossible to make completely pure decisions.

Hopeless situation? No, that’s why scripture teaches submission:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Ephesians 5:21

I don’t submit easily and neither do you!

Whether we passively or aggressively resist, we all hate being told what to do. Since I am aggressive, I’ve been challenged often about my motives – often by people whose own personal agenda required them to challenge my personal agenda.

Frustrating! Yet, poor decision-making flows from arrogance.

Let’s clap our hands for scriptural submission as it protects us from ourselves and others. Make sure it is scriptural submission. Read aloud, below, what submission is and isn’t:

  • Submission is placing oneself under the influence of others. Biblical submission doesn’t give someone else permission to impose their will on us.
  • Submission works toward unity – individuals working together. It isn’t control or manipulation.
  • Submission works through communication. It’s not a command. It is agreement.
  • Submission follows the example of Jesus. It is not someone telling you to follow Jesus by following them.

Again, scriptural submission is not church leaders telling the congregation what to think, and it is not a husband or wife manipulating the other. But our reaction to abusive submission does not release us from having relationships in which we submit to one another!

True submission means yielding, it means serving, it means listening and following, and in some cases, it can mean obedience. Jesus set the example when He said to the Father, “Not my will but your will be done!”

I once visited the most popular Christian musician in America (at that moment). He lived in a commune (a long time ago). While there, someone said to me, “I want to buy a car and I need to go ask my discipler for permission.”

Not Biblical submission!

I was in another church not long ago, and someone said to me, “I can’t believe it, I let my small group know that I needed a car to drive to work and someone just gave me a car.”

That’s Scriptural submission – not what others do for you but what you do for others.

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