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.” 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. 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.” 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:
- How do you normally respond when you hear an opinion you don’t agree with?
- Would the people closest to you say that you have a teachable spirit?
- 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?
- 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.)
- Who have granted permission to speak into your life?
- Who has modeled healthy, Biblical submission for you, and how have they influenced your life?
- Are you more attached to your opinions and authority than you are to Jesus and His love and care for others?
- 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:
- The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster (Pages 110-124)
- The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard (Pages 189-190)
- Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun (Pages 118-120)
- God in the Dock by C.S. Lewis (Pages 193-195)
- Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray
- Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer