Many people today aren’t too fond of the “s” word. It’s not esteemed in popular culture and it can even be banned in some families. I can’t say I blame anyone. It sounds daunting, demeaning, and downright impossible to do at times. Typically that’s because “submission” is seen as weakness, and these days no one is interested in looking weak. We want to be regarded as independent, powerful, and successful, and the way of the world does not align with the route of submission in getting there. However, we know that following Jesus as Lord means taking the narrow way, the road less traveled so to speak. As believers, we are actually charged to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). What does this look like practically and what can we learn from our Savior in doing so?
To submit means to give over to the power of another, or essentially to surrender (another popular “s” word). For me, submitting paints a picture of allowing someone or something to move in front of, or before, oneself. While the world may have a different view of submission, we can learn everything there is to know by fixing our eyes on Jesus our Savior. He displayed strength in weakness through submission to the Father, “who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped; rather, he made himself nothing… and humbled himself” (Philippians 2:6-7). Jesus holds all authority in the universe, yet He still chose to give His life for our sins. Imagine that the Savior of the world moves in front of us to spare us from the wrath of God that we deserve. Even on the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prayed to the Father that if it were possible, may the cup pass from Him; however He also ended the prayer, “yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). In saying that, Jesus was simply demonstrating a heart posture of submission before God the Father: that His will would be done over His own. What a Savior!
Now it seems impossible to reach that kind of standard. Of course, we aren’t perfect like Jesus. He is God incarnate. Thankfully, He has poured out His Spirit into His church to empower us to live a life that imitates His: to walk in love. One of the ways that we walk in love is by submitting to one another. Now, what happens when we live this way? Why is it important that we submit to our spouses, or to our parents, or the authorities?
Well, when we submit to one another, we are ultimately submitting to God because we are obeying His word (Ephesians 5:21-25). When we obey God, it demonstrates our trust that His ways are far better than our own (Isaiah 55:8-9) and we also imitate Him “as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1-2). When we submit our pride and lay down our lives for the sake of another, we are loving others in the way that Christ loves us. We’re actually pursuing unity when we submit because we’re laying down our own ways for the sake of agreement, or a greater purpose. In this case, the greater purpose is a unified pursuit of God’s kingdom advancing here on earth and seeing Christ magnified.
Hopefully, the call to submit does not seem so scary after all, though it may seem easier said than done. I encourage all of us sisters in Christ to…
- Fix our eyes on Jesus as we look to imitate His example of laying down His life
- Walk in step with the Holy Spirit as He empowers us to live a life of holiness
- Humble ourselves by counting others as more significant
- Pursue peace and unity in relationships by submitting to one another
Questions to think about:
- In what areas do I need to submit to the Lord and then to others around me?
- What would the world look like if we lived in mutual submission to one another?