There is always a danger when talking about the subject of submission that someone will confuse the subject with oppression. Richard Foster says, “Of all the Spiritual Disciplines none has been more abused than the Discipline of submission. Somehow the human species has an extraordinary knack for taking the best teaching and turning it to the worst ends. Nothing can put people in bondage like religion, and nothing in religion has done more to manipulate and destroy people than a deficient teaching on submission.”[1] Because there is this grave danger in talking about this subject, the practical advice will come in the form of reflection questions on the subject of submission. The reality is every situation is unique, and there is a thin line between oppression and submission. This is why we must understand there is a difference between self-hatred and dying to self. If you don’t get a good grasp on that fact, it can lead to oppression rather than Biblical submission.

Jesus calls us to self-denial, not self-hatred. Self-contempt causes us to believe we have no worth, while self-denial says we have infinite worth and shows us how to realize it.[2] C.S. Lewis says, “The wrong asceticism torments the self: the right kind kills the selfness. We must die daily: but it is better to love the self than to love nothing, and to pity the self than to pity no one.”[3] To practice Biblical submission in a healthy way means we must first comprehend that we have the freedom to give our self away to others. It means we understand our infinite worth and value, and as a result we choose to honor others above ourselves.

The perfect example of this is found in the example of Jesus in Philippians 2. Paul says we are to follow the example of Christ when it comes to submission and hold others’ interests above our own. In Philippians 2:3-5 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” What is important in this passage is to see the attitude Christ took towards others and what it was birthed from. Notice how Jesus understands His infinite worth and value and what He chooses to do with this fact as Paul continues on:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5–11

In Christ we see a perfect picture of what submission looks like. Biblical submission is much different from oppression. Biblical submission is born out of a realization that you have infinite worth, not from self-hate. Biblical submission is something you freely give, not something you are forced to do.

Because of the trick nature of this subject, we thought it would be more appropriate to ask reflection questions rather than to give practical advice. So, here are a few of the questions that were asked yesterday morning along with a few more to chew on this week:

  1. How do you normally respond when you hear an opinion you don’t agree with?
  2. Would the people closest to you say that you have a teachable spirit?
  3. When was the last time you couldn’t let something small go because you were “right?” What does this teach you about how you can grow in the area of submission?
  4. What relationship do you need to work on being more submissive in right now? Who is an authority figure in your life that you have a hard time esteeming/honoring more than yourself? (i.e. at home, work, school, etc.)
  5. Who have granted permission to speak into your life?
  6. Who has modeled healthy, Biblical submission for you, and how have they influenced your life?
  7. Are you more attached to your opinions and authority than you are to Jesus and His love and care for others?
  8. What did you take away from this weekend’s message? How are you planning on applying this sermon to your life this week?

Resources for Practicing Submission
These are the resources the practical advice was drawn from and are helpful resources for anyone looking to practice submission in a healthy, Biblical way:

[1] Foster, Richard. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. (HarperCollins Publishers: New York, NY, 1998). Pg. 110.
Ibid., Pg. 113.
Lewis, C.S. God in the Dock. (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, MI, 1970). Pg. 195.

1 thought on “Submission”

  1. I would like to start this by telling some truths about my own shortcomings. I believe submission is one of the most difficult spiritual disciplines of all. It is definitely one that i struggle with intensely.  I find that submitting to authority can tax the deepest reaches of my relationship with G-d.  I believe the reason behind my submission issue is actually a sovereignty issue.  Sometimes I forget that G-d is sovereign and instead believe that I have to take control in order to help G-d bring the world back into its rightful place, “Which is of course ridiculous.”[1]  I am not saying that we do not play an important role in G-d’s plan, we are called to participate, but we do not control what comes to pass.  Many times I get tied to an outcome rather than remembering G-d gave me a specific task to accomplish and leave the rest to him.  For example, we are called to witness to the world about G-d.  So the church counts the number of people who are saved, but we aren’t called to save anyone.  G-d saves, he has called us to witness and we should rejoice whenever we are given the opportunity to give that witness regardless of whether or not the message is received.  The outcome is not up to us, but somehow we feel that it is.  
    My life is rich with examples of failing to submit, it is something that seems to go against everything I have been taught, even by some Christians. What about when we go against submission by speaking words that challenge or belittle their authority. This is wrong on many levels, especially considering that the evil tongue, or Lashon Ha’Ra in Hebrew, is speaking bad about someone even it it’s true.  We are called to uphold the reputation of others, not to degrade and demean them to others.  Many times we feel it is ok if what we are saying is true, but this doesn’t work if we are truly submitted to loving them as ourselves.  We would not want someone to share our faults with other people, so why do we think it is okay to do this to others?
    Pesel is the Hebrew word for idol and at first glance it doesn’t seem to fit with submission, but lets look more closely at the Hebrew meaning.  In the cultures of the ancient lands there were many gods.  These gods were not concerned with moral behaviors, however, could be persuaded through sacrifices and worship. These god were reputed to behave in depraved ways. So it was not uncommon for people to use devious means to get ahead especially since this was looked upon favorably by their gods.  Our G-d is different.  He does not only want us to worship him, he also wants us to submit, saying, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Ephesians 4:1 TNIV.  It’s is not enough to say we serve the L-rd, our actions must show that we are serving him and submission is an essential piece. In a way when we are unwilling to submit as G-d has called us to we make control an idol that we worship at the alter of our own abilities.  “Because if we are serving God, we do things God’s way, but once something else has become a greater ‘god’ to us, we overrule God and act as we please.”[2]  If we follow G-d we must be people who submit, and not overrule G-d and try to accomplish his will of our own authority.  It is not just what we accomplish, it is also about how we accomplish it. The journey is every bit as important as the destination.
    What if we lived in a mutually submissive community?  What if it was a community where we were more concerned with protecting the reputation of others and relationship we have with them than we were with getting ahead or being right?  What if others saw this about our community?  Would they feel safe in coming to us in their times of need?  Seems like I have read about something similar to this, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.  News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.  Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” Matthew 4:23-25. Do we look like this now?
    Notice that throughout the New Testament when people hear about the life that Jesus and his disciples live, they bring those they care about, who are suffering to them. The sick, the lame, the demon possessed; so many infirmities and so much brokenness.  Where do they feel safe to bring their brokenness?  Would people say this about the Christian communities to which we belong?  There are times in my life when brokenness arises, when one of the walls I have constructed crumbles exposing the wounds caused by sin. I am not always comfortable bringing my brokenness to the church, why would we expect others to?  If our communities are not a safe haven of mutual submission we will continue to not only hurt one another, but alienate those we seek to help.  
    [1]  The Two Towers, spoken by Gimli son of Gloin
    [2]  Listening to the Language of the Bible, Lois Tverberg with Bruce Okkema pp. 28

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