“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” —Ephesians 5:21
The word “submission” may sound unacceptable in our day. The hour in which we live is replete with people fighting for authority and power. The pursuit of position over relationship is fertile breeding ground for offense, outrage, critique, and protest often espoused through social media or in front of a camera. Neither are such negative responses absent from the space around the water cooler in the office, the break room, or the classroom.
Perhaps one reason authority gets rejected is that we seek it in ourselves. In many settings, everyone wants authority over someone or something else, but not everyone wants responsibility. Too many Christians who claim Jesus to be the Lord of their lives do not really practice submission. Lately, I have discovered that the greatest leaders are those who first learn to submit to other authorities in their lives.
If we refuse to submit to the people God has placed in authority over us, then how can we say that we submit to God?
Many scriptures clearly give us instructions to submit to authority (Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1, Hebrews 13:7, 1 Peter 2: 13-14). Submission is not about weakness; rather, it is about coming underneath to support. Submission should never be forced; it is given to the one in authority. When God calls us to submit to Him, we do so of our own volition.
As Christians, we claim Jesus is Lord, acknowledging God’s authority over us. As His followers, we accept that God knows best how we are to live our lives. We submit to His lordship by living our lives with Jesus as the cornerstone and His call to holiness as the preeminent characteristic of all that we do. None of these things can truly take place outside of our submission to the Holy Spirit.
Indeed, even ongoing spiritual victory requires continual submission. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Jesus modeled this submission to the Father throughout His life, even to the cross. Paul recounts that Jesus, “though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:6). Submission to government leaders, teachers, parents, church leaders, and supervisors is not about weakness, but rather about the power to bring glory to God wherever each person is placed. There is power in submission!
When I rightly yield to those around me, I might just be in the best position to glorify God. Not only that, full submission is a prerequisite for entire sanctification.
Jared Henry is lead pastor at Mackey Church of the Nazarene in Mackey, Indiana, USA.
Written for Coffee Break.