Submission. Just hearing the word can put us on the defensive. In a culture steeped in personal rights and freedom, the idea of setting aside our desires to bow to authority can raise our hackles.
Yet, submission is biblical. Scripture portrays it in many forms. Children submit to their parents (Ephesians 6:1), employees submit to their employer (1 Peter 2:18), citizens submit to the government (1 Peter 2:13, Titus 3:1, Romans 13:1), a believer submits to God (James 4:7), a wife submits to her husband (Ephesians 5:22), Jesus submits to the will of God the Father (Luke 22:42).
Like most, I struggled with submission as a child and teen and acted out in disobedience. As an adult, I am surprised to learn I still struggle with submission. The struggle just shows itself in subtler forms. Instead of labelling it disobedience I called it demanding my rights (what’s fair, my due, you fill in the blank).
Our adult Sunday school class is working through the book of 1 Peter. Chapter 2 verse 13 and onward hit me with all the subtlety of a 2×4.
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God (1 Peter 2:13-19).”
Submitting to authority willingly, without grumbling, keeping Jesus as my example is hard, especially when the figure of authority is wrong, unfair or cruel. Yet, notice what Scripture doesn’t add. Scripture doesn’t say submit if your employer is kind, it is not submit if your government follows God. Just submit – “not only to the good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh (vs 18).”
Yikes. That hits me right between the eyes prompting a fair bit of time confessing my sin of failed submission to God.
Under the pretense of fairness and wanting what is mine I have failed to submit the way God requires. How much more would have Christ been glorified if I had endured the pain of unjust suffering and entrusted myself to God? Perhaps respectful and gracious conduct would have won my tormentor to Christ.
We’ll never know.
Living for Christ is such a journey. Always learning. Always humbled. always seeing afresh my great sin. Always grateful for the grace of God that covers even this.
Author’s note: If you are not currently attending an adult Sunday school class, I encourage you to find one. It is a great way to dig deeper into a text and discuss with other believers the challenging words of God.