ANARCHY IS IN VOGUE, and yet, I can’t get that bad “s” word out of my mind. Marches, riots, protests — everyone wants to belong to a cause. Out-voice the opposing side, and you’ll gain the world’s attention (and possibly elicit change). That’s how it works. But, ironically, the reason we’re living in this pattern of increasing turbulence is that, as a people, we’re bridled by too small a cause: ourselves. That’s why I can’t shake that controversial word — submission.
It’s an un-American word. Even within the Christian community, we hold it at arm’s-length. Because, while Scripture is full of God’s commands to submit to a various range of authorities, the implications are often awkward, even repulsive. So we navigate the concept of submission with a tangle of interpretive rationalizations, viewing it ultimately as just another check-the-yes-or-no-box of the Christian life. The only problem is: it’s not.
So, biblically, what is submission?
. . . the reason we’re living in this pattern of increasing turbulence is that, as a people, we’re bridled by too small a cause: ourselves.
Proceed with caution: unveiling a biblical worldview of submission isn’t for the squeamish or faint-of-heart. Its strongest and most stunning display was, after all, on a bloodied cross, where Christ, through submission to his Father, ransomed us from the oppression of sin and death. And in his prayerful words, leading up to that pivotal event, we hear biblical submission’s driving pulse: not my will, but yours, be done (Luke 22:42, ESV).
In a single phrase, that’s it. But until we have a biblical and resultantly big view of God, submission will never make sense. So who is he?
We see firework-glimpses of God’s character in passages like Isaiah 6 and Job 38-41. In 1 Timothy 6, he is referenced as the one who gives life to all things, the blessed and only Sovereign, King of kings, Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. And he is worthy of all honor and eternal dominion (v.13-16).
. . . until we have a biblical and resultantly big view of God, submission will never make sense.
In response, entitlement shrivels and will is relinquished. It’s simply game-over — ceasefire. Exposed to even a snapshot of God’s inexhaustible character, we’re stunned speechless with Job. Moreover with Isaiah — the only fathomable response we can give is total allegiance: Here am I! Send me (Is. 6:1-8). And since he is God, the rapturous mission of our lives is clear — not my will, but yours, be done.
Listen. The world says otherwise, but submission to God is not weak. In fact, anything less than absolute submission is insane. Because biblical submission isn’t mindless; it’s mindful, alive and awake to the reality of God. Therefore, while it will manifest itself in many ways, biblical submission never equals numb apathy, and, paradoxically, it leads to the most radical “risks” of our lives. Because, biblically, all other submission is driven by overarching submission to God Most High.
Courage: While we may often feel alone in taking this stance, we’re in the best of company, joining the ranks of righteous rebels, holy and fierce. Among them are the Hebrew Midwives of Exodus, “servants of the Most High God” — Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Esther, the apostles, William Wilberforce, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and countless others, who through submission to God, have faced a spectrum of Goliaths. And with them, our submission is a statement of confidence in him because the battle is the LORD’s (1 Sam. 17:43-47; Ex. 1; Dan. 3, 6; Esther 4; Acts 4).
. . . biblical submission never equals numb apathy . . . it leads to the most radical “risks” of our lives.
Compassed by God’s lordship, we therefore yield to the various authorities he’s placed in our lives until mortal decree contradicts divine command. However, even when overriding allegiance to Christ does manifest itself in humble defiance to human authorities, we’re still operating in mission-driven submission — and it’s the strongest force of protest in existence, countering the world’s expectations and even human nature itself. So whether submission means self-controlled silence or the boldest stand of our lives, we should never underestimate its paradoxical activism, because it screams that God is worth following and his ways always work.
Submission is a reality with no neutral ground. It’s never a question of whether you will or won’t submit. The question is simply to whom. So are you yielding your life to a strong-enough cause? Because if you really want to change the world — if you want to belong to a life-changing movement that resonates with eternal impact — here are our marching orders: Submit to God and never settle for a cause less than Christ’s.