The Problem with Submission
[The following Date Night Advice is an excerpt from the JUST RELEASED, third and final book in our discipleship series: Beyond Sex & Salvation. It presents three crucial life decisions for relational success; decisions best made BEFORE you fall in love. Find out more or purchase the book at this link.]
This requires submission.
Few words in the English language can elicit such rancor in our modern culture as the word “submission.” It brings to mind such contemptible practices as slavery, both physical and emotional abuse, and – worst of all – conservative religious dogma.
Regardless, please believe me. If you can’t submit to another in love, you simply can’t be happily married. And, no, I’m not just talking to the ladies, for Paul commands us in Eph 5:21 to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (NIV)
For starters, it might help for us to define what Biblical submission is about. The Greek word for submit is “hypotassō” and, according to Strong’s concordance, it speaks of “a voluntary attitude of cooperating, giving in, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.” There are two things I want to point out in this definition.
First, submission isn’t coerced. It’s chosen. For someone to biblically submit to God or anyone, it must be voluntary. So some domineering Neanderthal cannot demand or force someone to submit to him in the biblical sense of the word.
That’s what we’re talking about with this letting God have His way. God could come in and force us to do His bidding; but curiously, He chooses not to do that. Instead, He wants us to submit to Him, of our own free will.
It reminds me of something funny my son James does. He’s eight years old and wiry. I don’t think the boy has an ounce of fat on his entire body (wish I had those genes), so he’s tough and loves to wrestle. And because he’s so strong for his tiny size, I love to wrestle with him. It never fails though, when I finally pin him, he’ll yell out, “I was just being easy on you!”
Right. I couldn’t pin an 8-year-old unless he “lets me.” Makes me laugh every time I think about it.
Well, here’s the deal.
The Almighty God and Creator of the universe wants you to “be easy on Him.” He wants you to “let Him” have His way, for real.
He could pin you in a pinch. Actually, He could speak you out of existence with a word (or just a letter, or less). But He’s not interested in showcasing His brute force on His children.
With His children, He wants them to choose to submit; first to Himself and than to each other, out of reverence for Him.
Secondly, submitting isn’t merely the act of giving in, or letting God have His way. The action is supposed to be accompanied by – or more accurately inspired by – a submissive attitude.
If no one’s let you in on the secret, God’s not as interested in what you do as He is in why you do it. Of course, God wants you to obey Him, but He wants you to obey Him willingly. He wants you to give cheerfully (2 Cor 9:7), serve wholeheartedly (1 Chr 28:9), sacrifice with thanksgiving (Ps 50:14), and wait on Him with faith (Ps 37:7).
As Henry Blackaby emphasizes in Experiencing God, what we do says a lot more about what we believe about God than what we say, because in obeying God, we show that we love and trust Him. However…
Even more than what we say or do, our attitude toward God reveals what we believe about Him.
Many times I’ve “obeyed” God with clenched fist and gritted teeth. When I do that, I’m saying, “I’m obeying You because I have to,” or “because I’m afraid what might happen if I don’t,” or “to get You off my back.”
Do You Have a Problem with Authority?
Of course, “submission’s” public relations problem didn’t begin with Eph 5:21, which is directed to all believers. It began with Eph 5:22, which is addressed specifically to women. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” (ESV)
This is the verse that pulls the proverbial plug on the symbolic jukebox and sucks all the allegorical air out of the figurative room.
“Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?”
Nevertheless, Julie and I endeavored to tackle Eph 5:22-33, notorious for its notion of wives submitting to their husbands, in our very first marriage seminar. Truth be known, Julie didn’t think it was a very good idea to cover such a controversial topic our first time at bat, but as she drolly declared to the 70+ students in attendance , “I submitted to my husband on this.”
And she did (voluntarily and with a great attitude)! She covered the verses directed to the ladies and I covered the verses directed to the men. To both of our surprises, that session was by far the highest-rated of the day.
In her preparation for the seminar, Julie made an interesting discovery. And I feel like you should hear it from her perspective:
“I realized that my problem wasn’t so much dealing with submission as it was dealing with authority. The more I prayed about it and studied the Word it occurred to me that, in our independence-loving culture, we don’t want to have to take orders from anyone, ever. We didn’t want to obey our parents, we don’t want to obey the speed limit, and we don’t want to obey God.”
Wives not being willing to submit to their husbands isn’t the problem. It’s a symptom of a larger problem all of mankind has with authority.
We didn’t respect the authority of our teachers, half the nation won’t honor the authority of our president, and we don’t want to submit to the authority of the Word of God.
Far from respecting and submitting to authority, our culture resents and ridicules authority. I guess you could say that as much as nature abhors a vacuum, humans abhor authority.
This should have been obvious from the moment Eve fell for the line, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” – Gen 3:5 (ESV)
“You will be like God.” Essentially, the deceiver was saying, “You don’t have to submit to His rules. You can make your own. In fact, let’s start right now with this little change to the program.”
- What does your attitude toward God say you believe about Him?
- Why are we called to submit to one another? What is supposed to motivate our submission?
- How easy do you find it to submit to God’s will, to let Him have His way?
- What does your attitude toward God say you believe about Him?
- Have you ever thought of yourself as having a problem with authority? Do you wonder now? Why or why not?
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The LoveEd study guide series, Beyond Sex & Salvation,will empower you to prepare for relational success when it counts: BEFORE YOU FALL IN LOVE! It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die.Check out the first two 8-lesson study guides in our store. You can walk through it on your own, but it’s more fun with friends, so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study. Even better? And ask a married couple you respect to lead it!