Submission is such an awkward word in a culture besotted with self. It’s not that people aren’t generous, hard-working or friendly, but our Western world seems to do altruism on its own terms. My money, my choice, my life.
This attitude runs contrary to the biblical value of submission. One image from the original language of the New Testament is that of an ‘under-rower’, whose life exists for a greater purpose, as depicted in the famous battle scene from the old movie Ben Hur: “We keep you alive to serve this ship, so row well and live”.
Suspicion of authority figures is sometimes warranted, especially when some have violated positions of trust. However, the notion of voluntarily yielding to someone else’s leadership or vision is often, in reality, a very guarded gesture. And whilst we don’t live in each other’s pockets in life, the opposite extreme of “no one tells me what to do” never ultimately builds community. After all, we can only ever lead others as effectively as we can serve under other leaders. The famous book Lord of the Flies shows so well how society degenerates with an every-man-for-himself attitude which for its Nobel prize-winning author, William Golding, was symbolic of original sin.
Perhaps that’s why it is a little difficult to truly submit to the antidote to such sin, Jesus Christ. Giving one’s life to Christ is not just about embracing the best bits of His teaching. It is not even just about accepting His salvation for sin. It is about recognising that the personalisation of a relationship with God because of what Jesus did means surrendering to His lordship.
Because He broke sin’s power over us, we are able to live above sin only in His strength. This is what also enables us to live a life of humility, counting others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3), wherein we also receive God’s grace (James 4:6). We don’t just submit to Jesus as long as He ‘blesses’ our agenda and we don’t just submit to the leaders He places over us as long as we agree with them. In the end, that’s a self-lordship and pride which originated from one who was originally proud enough to stand up to God and find himself kicked out of Heaven!
Jesus embraced the heart of submission which I want as my prayer to God: “Not my will but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).