The Order of Submission
If ever a word could be identified as an emotional trigger, it’s submission. And if submission is mentioned in the context of marriage, then dive for cover because the trigger just became a grenade!
Do the following words sound familiar? They’re found in the preamble of the United States Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
We Americans love our rights, don’t we? We’ve multiplied the laws of the land in our determination to protect those rights. And we’re quick to let others know if they have trampled our rights, real or imagined. Phrases such as she had no right to treat me that way, or I have a right to do what I want roll off our tongues without much thought.
Since the need to protect our rights was important enough to be included in the Declaration of Independence, you’d think there would be something about it in the Bible, wouldn’t you? There is, but not in the way we might hope to find.
Let’s start with Jesus, who was and is God. Yet again and again during His earthly ministry, He submitted to the Father’s will. Remember the Garden of Gethsemane? “Not My will, but Yours be done.” This submission did not make Him any less God than the Father. Instead, it reflected the equal but different roles of the members of the Trinity.
John the Baptist gives us a beautiful example of humble submission when he said “He must increase, but I must decrease.” He was willing to give up his growing ministry to submit to the One he proclaimed. Still, it’s one thing to submit directly to Christ, but quite another to submit to each other.
Both Peter and Paul wrote about submitting to one another. And both illustrated the model of submission with examples of human relationships. What does submission look like in a Christian’s relationship with God? In an employment relationship? In a marriage relationship? As citizens?
Marriage relationships are especially prone to misunderstandings. Like many other biblical truths, the principle of submission in marriage has been twisted and corrupted. Today, even the most devout Christian women shudder at the thought of making themselves “doormats” for their husbands. Likewise, even the best of husbands are tempted to relish the role of “king of the castle” in their homes rather than loving their wives sacrificially.
Order vs. Doormats
Perhaps the problem lies in the definition of this emotionally charged word. The Greek word for submission comes from combining two words: hupo and tasso. Together, they form the word for submission which means “to place under in an orderly fashion.” This same word was used in New Testament times to describe the arrangement of military ranks. In today’s terms, colonels are not doormats because they defer to generals!
Submission does not mean one person becomes a doormat for the other. Submission merely establishes order in relationships. A good illustration of submitting to each other is found in the novel by Hugh Lofting, The Story of Dr. Dolittle. Dr. Dolittle befriends a pushmi-pullyu, a gazelle-like animal with two heads at opposite ends of a single body. One head talked and the other head ate. The pushmi-pullyu could not move or even survive if each head decided to walk in different directions. Neither head was superior to the other—different roles with equal worth.
Humility and submission are not easy subjects for us to apply to our relationships Still, the rewards will far outweigh the growing pains of putting a check on our pride. With the help of God’s Holy Spirit, we can submit to one another in the body of Christ!
How do you apply the biblical concept of submission?