Paul Aiello tells a story about the captain of the ship who looked into the dark night and saw faint lights in the distance. Immediately he told his signalman to send a message” “Alter your course 10 degrees south.”
Promptly a return message was received: “Alter your course 10 degrees north.”
The captain was angered; his command had been ignored. So he sent a second message: “Alter your course 10 degrees south–I am the captain!”
Soon another message was received: “Alter your course 10 degrees north–I am seaman third class Jones.”
Immediately the captain sent a third message, knowing the fear it would evoke: “Alter your course 10 degrees south–I am a battleship.”
Then the reply came “Alter your course 10 degrees north–I am a lighthouse.”
Some folks, like the ship’s Captain, a have a problem with submission. Sometimes we must submit to a person of lesser rank, position or status. Other times we are called upon in various relationships to submit to those entrusted with greater authority.
To first century Christians the apostle Peter exhorted, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake…” (1 Pet 2:13-14)
This word is used over 40 times in New Testament. It is sometimes translated subject, subdued, submit or subjection. Dr. Thayer says it means “to arrange under, to subordinate. To put into subjection. To obey. To yield to one’s admonition or advice.”
It is a military term referring to arranging troops according to division, under the command of a leader. In a non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.
Jesus is our example in submission. Luke says that at age 12 he went to Nazareth and “was subject” to his parents (Lk. 2:52). He submitted to John’s baptism, although he was sinless, “to fulfill all righteousness (Mt 3:15). Jesus submitted to the Father’s will to do his work, suffer, and finally, die on the cross.
As disciples of Christ, we are called to submit in various relationships. The Bible says that we are to “be subject to the governmental authorities” (Rom 13:1). Servants were exhorted “to be obedient to their own masters.” Christians are to submit to Shepherds in the church who watch for our souls (I Pet 5:1-4; Heb. 13:17). And wives were commanded to “submit to your own husbands” (Eph 5:21).
In a culture that prides itself on self-sufficiency, independence, and freedom, submission sounds a little too much like surrender! We don’t like giving in to someone else. Or giving up our rights.
Yet, Christians are called to submit “for the Lord’s sake.” Because of our relationship to God, and our desire to behave uprightly in this world, the Christian walk is one of submission to those who are in authority. It shows respect. And it honors Christ.
In fact, Peter calls for mutual submission among brethren. “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility…” (1 Peter 5:5)
So how do we develop an attitude of submission?
(1) Decrease our pride. God resists the proud. It’s a barrier between us and God. And it’s a roadblock to good relationships. Pride hinders humility and hampers submission. Pride produces disputes, discord, and division.
(2) Increase our love. Several qualities of love identified in 1 Corinthians 13 relate to submission. Love is not self-seeking. It does not insist on its own rights and privileges. It does not pursue self-advantage. It bends to accommodate the best interest of the beloved. And love serve others!
(3) Grow in our Discipleship. Jesus said a disciple is not above his master. In John 13 is the account of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Jesus was not only submissive to the will and authority of the Father, he was submissive to the needs of his followers. We demonstrate our discipleship, when we are mutually submissive to one another.
In the end, submission is about attitude. It’s a demonstration of genuine love, mutual respect, and humble service. Toward others. And for the Lord.
Do you need to alter your course of life?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman