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About Submission

Posted by Matt Postiff April 9, 2018 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Sanctification  Society 

The Christian teaching of submission is very difficult for most people to swallow—even Christians. This is especially so when it has to do with the relationship of wives to their husbands. I recently thought of a way to explain submission that may help you see if you want to follow the Lord in this matter, or if you are not a believer and want to understand better the idea of Christian submission. It is not the Neanderthal, patriarchal thing that you think it is!

In Scripture, the idea is not that an outside person causes you to submit. Instead, the idea is that you subordinate yourself—and gladly so—in obedience to God’s instruction. Submission to an authority figure is an act of obedience to God, which shows love for God and, in turn, appreciation for the authority figure and his/her office. Insubordination is a sin against God, and shows no appreciation for the authority.

It is this way for citizens and their government, or children and their parents and teachers. Those cases are in a sense “easy” because they have to do with relationships where the power distribution is lopsided. The government can put you in jail, and your parents and teachers are, at least early on, much bigger than you are!

But what about situations where the submitting party and the authority party are, roughly speaking, peers—like two adults in the workplace or in marriage?

Let’s think about the example of a workplace. Let us suppose that a conscientious woman employee has a boss who is a nice man. Notice how her submission operates. He asks her to do X, Y, and Z, and she happily jumps into working on those tasks. She doesn’t complain all day about it. She completes the tasks, and then asks for more!

Now, you may object that she doesn’t have much choice because he holds the power of the paycheck over her head. True…except that she can quit and, in many cases in a good economy, get another job without much trouble. But let’s assume further that she is not working just for the money. She is more principled than that, and her work situation is a happy one.

She cheerfully submits herself to her boss. She wants to be helpful, and indeed likes the feeling of being helpful. It makes her feel useful and fulfilled when she submits to her boss. She does so for the good of the company, so that the company can succeed and grow and be even better than it was before she came. She may work to exhaustion many hours per week to carry out this submission fully.

But let us also assume that this same woman has some marital problems at home, though her husband is generally a nice guy. What’s different at 5pm when she goes home? What happened on the commute home that changed her cheerful and fulfilled-by-submission disposition to one that is hard and implacable? Does her happy submission stop because “it’s just her husband” that is asking her to do X, Y, or Z? Does she happily submit to his requests or directives? If not, what’s the difference between work and home? Why can she submit at work, but cannot seem to bring herself to do so at home?

Why is it that wives don’t want to submit to their husbands, but they will submit to their female or male boss every day of the week? They sometimes even do so when the boss has requests that are unreasonable or a waste of time or doesn’t provide the best tools for the job, or whatever other non-ideal circumstances you can think of (kind of like an imperfect husband would be).

I have a partial answer. The flesh and its allies, the world and Satan, have some clever tricks up their sleeves. They can deceive us into being happily submissive to earn the paycheck at work, in a job that we could quit anytime. But they turn around and try to destroy our marriage by making us insubordinate at home in a relationship that we promised (with “vows”) to uphold with all of our might at the wedding ceremony. The important relationship—marriage—is subject to destruction, and the optional relationship—work—is upheld as sacrosanct.

Dear friends, beware of the rebellious spirit in your heart that causes this strange situation.

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