Submission is a four letter word for most of us. This is not only because we are born in rebellion against authority, due to our sin nature, but because we are Americans, too. We are a country created out of a rebellion. “No taxation without representation!” was the cry that led to the formation of the USA.
Though all humans rebel against God, other cultures are more or less attuned to the concept of submission than we are. In Asia, for example, submitting one’s self to the goals of the group, for the good of others is a widely held value.
By contrast, I think Australians are even more culturally prone to rebellion than we “Yanks.” Lecturing at a seminary there some years ago I was struck—flabbergasted might be a more accurate description—by the cheekiness of questions and pushback from the seminarians, which was several levels beyond what I had known here. One of our hosts explained that in Australia they have a saying: “It is the tall poppy that gets cut down,” meaning: the leaders get chopped down to size, like it or not.
Our fundamental rebellion is one in which we reject God’s authority and substitute for it our own private judgment. “I will do what I think is best.” Therefore our decisions in life are directed solely by our private understanding, standing independent from, and often in defiance of, God’s Word and his leadership in our lives.
Yet the Bible clearly calls us to a life marked by submission. Submission to God first, but then to all the authoritative relationships that God has providentially placed in our lives. We all submit to governing authorities, to church leadership, to those older than us, children submit to parents, wives to husbands and servants to masters (read as employees to bosses).
That is a whole lot of submitting! Even worse to our ears is this truth, that we are supposed to submit even to pretty bad leaders. For example wives are to follow even non-believing husbands. “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives…” (1Pe 3:1). Servants are to faithfully serve even unfair masters. “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.” (1Pe 2:18)
As American Christians we are likely to skip over the commands to submit to the authorities that God has placed in our lives despite the firm warnings that to do so is to rebel, not against them only, but against God. “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Rom 13:2)
Why is our submission critical to our calling, our progress, as Christians? Because our very redemption means that we must grow in submission. God created us to be creatures who submit to him and his rule, but in the fall we threw off that very submission. Our redemption through Christ very deeply leads us back to a place of submission to God, and therefore his providential authorities in our lives. Through biblical submission, a world turned upside-down by rebellion is set right-side up again, under the authority of Christ.
In short, we cannot progress as Christians without going the way of submission: submission to God, to God’s Word, to God’s leaders in our lives. To live un-submissively is to live in rebellion against God himself, it is, in the end, to live as a non-Christian.
To follow Christ we must go the way Jesus went, the way of the cross, the way of submission, and say to God, whenever his legitimate authorities direct us, “…not my will but thine be done.”
The world may be looking for leaders but God is just as interested in followers. How well do you follow God’s leaders in your life?
Author: Rev. Dr. Tom Hawkes
Image: Found here