Spiritual Discipline: Submission

In my professional life, submission more than anything else is the hardest to deal with. I’m a creative type – at least according to all the personality/social behavior/discover who you are/team building quizzes say that I am. Sometimes creativeness likes to push up against the boundaries, explore uncharted territory, and risk getting caught for the thrill of discovery, changing processes, and making the system flow more efficiently.  Yet, Christ calls me to a deeper purpose. Not a door mat mentality, but a “you don’t have to be right all the time” kind of mentality.  So, we are going to explore what healthy submission looks like.

Perhaps out of all the spiritual disciplines, submission has had the most widespread abuse. Religion, for all its potential of goodness, has a perversion about it that manipulates people into bondage through submission. On the one hand, If we are not careful, we become slaves to the habits ingrained in us and find ourselves doing things because “that’s how the [insert your denomination] does them.” On the other hand, we become haters of ourselves through self deprecation. Both views are wrong.

Godly, Christ-like submission stands in stark contrast. The corresponding freedom is that we no longer carry the burden of always getting our way. We soon realize that not everything is as important as we think it is. Yet we are mindful when submission becomes a destructive dissolution of freedom. In the proper perspective, submission trades in self-deprecation for self-denial.

Lens of Scripture

The cornerstone of submission for any disciple is the example set forth by Christ, who gave us this challenge:

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. – Mark 8:34, ESV

When the disciples began to argue about who was the greatest among them, Christ quickly reminded them:

“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” – Mark 9:35, ESV

The very fact that Christ is God in the flesh, washing the disciples’ feet speaks volumes to submission. Yet, Christ was not always submissive. He understood appropriate boundaries. In John 8:59 Christ hide himself from the authorities and run away from the temple.

Paul also taught on submission. After his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul became 100% devoted to Christ, understood him to be the Passover lamb, and preached heavily against the legalism in Jewish law. Yet, in Acts 21, we see Paul offering sacrifices:

Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering [of sacrifices] presented for each one of them.

What’s going on here? Why would Paul offer sacrifices after Christ? It makes a case for submission. Paul best explained himself in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22:

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

A biblical understanding of submission revolves around obedience to God, not man. That perspective is key to mastering this discipline. Think about Peter’s order to the slaves to submit. Seems kind of redundant, right?

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. – 1 Peter 2:18

  • Why would Peter suggest that slaves submit to their masters?

It’s a matter of the heart.  You can obey authority on the outside and wage a war of hatred on the inside. However, if you see submission in light of obedience to God and attune your heart to pleasing Him, then you can submit even to the unjust.

So the challenge the next week or so is look for opportunities to submit. You with me?

Submission Series

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