What's all this nonsense about submission? It sounds archaic and oppressive! It's 2017, and women are CEO's of corporations and run for the office of President of the United States! All that submission stuff is obsolete!
In Ephesians 4, starting with verse 17, Paul tells the Body of Christ to be "wise," to understand what the will of the Lord is, and to walk with one another soberly, in God-honoring, uplifting ways, always thanking God for all things, "submitting to one another in the fear of God..." Does that sound like oppression? No way! Just the opposite! He's saying, "Everybody, come under each other and lift each other up!" God is at the top, giving and loving and ruling over with perfect benevolence. Under God's authority, you all serve and honor Him and one another, and everybody will benefit.
And then he gets personal. He addresses each group, individually: wives, husbands, children, parents, bondservants, and masters. It's the same, consistent message, "Come under one another and lift each other up!" (Eph 4:17-6:9)
That was God's original plan for humankind. Adam and Eve were designed to love each other in such a way as to lift each other up, and to come together underneath of God and lift Him up higher than anything. God generously gave them everything they could ever need or want! A literal Paradise! He told them: "Enjoy! Rule over it and subdue it." And I'm pretty sure He was smiling. That was the PLAN, folks, the original design by the smartest, most prestigious, talented, wise, compassionate designer the universe has ever known!
But then... Enter the enemy of God, stage left. Satan says, "Doubt the designer. Don't trust Him! You don't have to submit. Why should you 'come under' anybody? You can get what you want for yourself (echo)... self... self...self..." Adam and Eve swallowed the bait, believed the lie, and went for independence from God. That's really the essence of all sin, you know, independence from God. Self-dependence. No submission. "I'll do it my way..." (Thank you, Frank!) And the whole design got turned upside-down.
Take a look at Genesis 3. Right in the middle of enjoying a perfect life, in a perfect place, with a perfect relationship with the perfect spouse and with God, Himself, in person, Eve and Adam did the one and only thing that the Lord told them not to do. He had warned them that they would suffer the death penalty if they disobeyed His one, single, solitary rule. And they did it anyway! With that bite of beautiful fruit came shame, conspiracy, hiding, fear, blame, deception, and the death of what used to be perfection on Earth. It set in motion relational, physical, and spiritual death. Eve and Adam had suddenly put themselves over God, rather than submitting themselves to Him; and that turned God's world upside-down.
Their disobedience resulted in what we call "the curse," the punishment God gave the couple, which reverberated down through the history of all of mankind, because we ALL choose self-reliance rather than submission to God.
Aside from pain during childbirth, God told Eve, "your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." (Gen. 3:16) THERE we have it folks! That word translated "desire" is found only twice in Genesis (Gen 3:16, 4:7), and in both cases it indicates a usurping dominance over someone. In other words, Eve, you will dominate (and rule over) Adam, and he will (dominate and) rule over you. Remember, this is the CURSE, not the PLAN.
How many of us are living out the curse in our relationships? When Jesus Christ came with skin on, He came to turn the upside-down world right-side up again and to make our relationships upright and edifying, putting God back at the top, and reminding us to submit, first to God, and then to one another.
When we voluntarily place ourselves under someone in order to lift them up, we are acting like Jesus Christ who is King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Designer and Creator of the Universe. If He can submit, how much more can we? This is what Paul is asking of us in Ephesians. In contrast, usurping authority, coming over, getting big, loud, and authoritative is sin. Needing to win is sin. It's the curse, not the plan. It is the stuff that death of relationships is made of. So, how about it? Let's be intentional about functioning according to God's design, His perfect plan. Submission is not a swear word. It is the very stuff of love. It's what Christ did for us, submitting Himself to a torturous death on a cruel cross so that we could spend eternity with Him.
If you want a better marriage, or better relationships with almost anyone, come under and lift them up. Submit yourself. If you're a leader, become the most humble servant. If you're an employee, submit yourself to your boss being helpful and positive. If you're a wife, intentionally place yourself under your husband and go out of your way to show him respect. If you're a husband, submit yourself to your wife, lift her up and love her like Christ loves us, His Bride, for whom He laid down His life, which is ultimate submission born out of no-strings-attached love.
Note: In cases of domestic violence, your first responsibility is to get to a safe place (with your children, if applicable) and get help. This writer is not suggesting that any person of any age or gender should ever submit themselves to anyone who is violent or dangerous.
If you would like suggestions for practical ways to lift up another person, or you want help with a dysfunctional relationship, I would love to help. Contact me at email@example.com.
Clinical Christian Counselor
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