It’s not a four letter word, but it’s a word we, especially Americans, extra-especially Texans, really, really hate… Can you guess what word it is? OK, I’ll tell you, but you’ve got to promise not to get too upset… Are you sitting down? Submission – ummm, I’m telling!
So, it’s not a bad word, but it’s a word most of us aren’t comfortable with. Folks get all excited when somebody starts talking about how one group of people needs to submit to another group of people. Somebody will make a comment about the text in the Bible that says that wives should submit to their husbands (“Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5:24NIV) and people just start going off the deep end all over the place! Have you ever noticed that? Why do you think that is?
Some folks would say that we have come so far as a race/species that we are self-sufficient and don’t need to-and shouldn’t-submit to anyone. The problem with that argument is that the first two people on earth had problems being submissive right off the bat. So did at least one of their children. In fact, it goes back even farther than that, doesn’t it? Lucifer had issues with submitting to authority, and he makes sure that we do to.
What does it mean to submit to someone? When most of us think of a definition, we go straight to the most negative definition, “abjectly submissive; characteristic of a slave or servant; ‘slavish devotion to her job ruled her life’; ‘a slavish yes-man to the party bosses’- ‘she has become submissive and subservient’ [syn: slavish] “ submissive. (n.d.). WordNet® 3.0. Retrieved July 06, 2007, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/submissive
I don’t know about you, but the thought of being slavish doesn’t sound like much fun to me. We certainly don’t want to consider ourselves slaves. Only weaklings submit their will to anyone else, right? But look what the Bible says in Romans 8:6-8: “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” NIV
Well, that definitely puts a different spin on the whole idea. Those verses make it sound like we cannot please God unless we submit to Him. In fact, Mrs. White goes beyond that:
“I know that human beings suffer much because they step out of the path that God has chosen for them to follow. They walk in the sparks of the fire they have kindled themselves, and the sure result is affliction, unrest, and sorrow, which they might have avoided if they had submitted their will to God and had permitted Him to control their ways. God sees that it is necessary to oppose our will and our way, and bring our human will into subjection.
“Whatever path God chooses for us, whatever way He ordains for our feet, that is the only path of safety. We are daily to cherish a spirit of childlike submission, and pray that our eyes may be anointed with the heavenly eyesalve in order that we may discern the indications of the divine will, lest we become confused in our ideas, because our will seems to be all-controlling. With the eye of faith, with childlike submission as obedient children, we must look to God, to follow His guidance, and difficulties will clear away. The promise is, "I will instruct thee and teach thee . . . : I will guide thee with mine eye" (Ps. 32:8). . . .
“If we come to God in a humble and teachable spirit, not with our plans all formed before we ask Him, and shaped according to our own will, but in submission, in willingness to be taught, in faith, it is our privilege to claim the promise every hour of the day. We may distrust ourselves, and we need to guard against our own inclinations and strong tendencies lest we shall follow our mind and plans and think it is the way of the Lord. . . .
“Our heavenly Father is our Ruler, and we must submit to His discipline. We are members of His family. He has a right to our service, and if one of the members of His family would persist in having his own way, persist in doing just that which he pleased, that spirit would bring about a disordered and perplexing state of things. We must not study to have our own way, but God's way and God's will.” That I May Know Him 249}
So, we can’t please God without submissive hearts and spirits, but we can’t even please ourselves.
Abraham and Sarah are given as examples of that kind of submission. And just so we don’t get discouraged right away, Abraham and Sarah also are examples of what can happen when we get impatient and don’t submit ourselves to God.
I think we’re mostly comfortable with those pictures of submission. In theory, we agree that we need to submit to God’s will in our lives, and when we take things into our own hands, they usually don’t go so well.
But there’s something else in that story that becomes very uncomfortable for us (well, for me anyway) to think about. It’s that pesky idea of one person submitting to another person. I’m not just talking about wives to husbands, because as I read it, everybody gets the same message at some point or another. Uh-huh, I saw that eye-roll. You aren’t any more comfortable with it than I am.
In Ephesians 5:22-33; 6:1-9; Romans 13:1-5; Colossians 3:18-22 and, most simply, Ephesians 5:21 (“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”) we read that God wants us to submit to each other. So, if we want to submit to God, we have to also submit to humans. How far do you think we have to take that, do you think?
When we think about the husband/wife or parent/child relationships, we can kind of go along with those, right? At least in those situations we can usually count on the positive feelings from the people we’re submitting to. And we know that God wants what’s best. But those verses don’t stop there.
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” Ephesians 6:5-9 NIV
Slaves? Slaves? We’re not slaves. Those verses were written for another time and place. They aren’t talking about us. Are they?
Well, no, but I think these verses have some very important things to say about the spirit of submission that can be applied in all the other areas.
Be honest with yourself now, how often have you (me too) done a task just well enough to slide by, or only tried to look busy when your boss was walking through? Is that the kind of submission God wants? ‘Fraid not. Your boss doesn’t want it either.
And what about when you believe your boss/husband/parent is wrong? Not going against God in anyway, but just wrong…do you have to submit then?
Think about Sarah’s life with Abraham. We don’t think much about her part of this adventure. Can you imagine your husband walking in and saying to you, “Morning dear, we’re moving.”
And your response would be…? Would you submit at that point? Or would you have some opinions to share before you started packing?
What about later when Abraham told the pharaoh that Sarah was his sister. Maybe the first time, we would have played along without any discussion, but what about the second time? What do you think that discussion might have sounded like in your family?
I don’t believe that Sarah was a passive, weak, dependent person; I do believe that after giving her thoughts she submitted to Abraham’s will. She trusted God enough to be able to trust Abraham. Just like Isaac trusted God enough to trust Abraham on Mount Moriah.
“We shall see the salvation of God if we trust in God in the darkness as well as in the light.
“All trials, all afflictions, all peace, all safety, health, hope, life, and success are in God's hands, and He can control them all for the good of His children. It is our privilege to be suppliants, to ask anything and everything of God, submitting our request in submission to His wise purposes and infinite will.” E.G.White, Our High Calling 318