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Submission is not just for married people.
I should know; I’m not married. But submission is most definitely for me. Submission is also for you.
When you hear the term “submission,” what comes to mind? Far from a comfortable topic, submission does not always garner the most supportive responses from people. Even Christ-followers hear the word and cringe because—let’s face it—submission has been misused and its purpose misunderstood. For many, the image that comes to mind is that of becoming a repressed doormat. In our minds, submission looks akin to slavery.
For a long time, I thought submission was limited to the context of marriage. Years ago, out of a desire to obey the Lord, I pursued a supposedly submissive attitude in a dating relationship—to my disappointment and confusion. The so-called “submission” that leaves a person disrespected, neglecting holiness, and being taken-advantage of is not submission at all. It is foolishness. At that point, I wondered if I would ever fully understand it. How could I get submission so wrong, when my intentions were so right?
A month ago, on flickered the lightbulb.
What a stunning realization it was for me. My pastor was teaching a large group of women from Titus, where Paul instructs young women to be “submissive to their own husbands” (2:5). Naturally, there was an intrigued, expectant silence in the air, as we women awaited his explanation of the controversial “submission” word. What we came away with left our hearts rejoicing.
Submission is not just for married people. Nor does submission find its origin in marriage.
Submission began with Christ, Himself.
How? Our Savior humbly and willingly obeyed the Father’s will, trusted Him fully, and went to the cross for our sins. Jesus submitted to God, “Not my will, but Yours be done,” and as a result, grace abounds. Through Christ’s submission, sin and death were defeated by His blood on the cross, and reconciliation with God was made possible for all who trust in Him.
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Submission is all about following the example of Jesus Christ.
Submission is therefore not just for married people because all Christians are called to submit to Christ. Living in submission to Christ's lordship means acknowledging that our lives are truly no longer our own, offering them up to God's perfect purposes and will.
Submission says, "Yes, Lord, You are in control of my life, and I trust that Your grace is sufficient for me. I will therefore rest in my identity as Your adopted daughter and trust the work of the Spirit in my life. I will walk by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
Here’s the freeing truth about submission: The reason God commands our submission, both within marriage, the Body of Christ and to Himself, is because through it, His grace is fully manifested and His Son glorified. Submitting ourselves to God means trusting His purposed plan, His leading by the Holy Spirit, His Word, and His sanctifying work in us. What freedom there is in relinquishing control to our Sovereign God, whose grace is sufficient in our every weakness!
But what about submission in our other relationships? John Piper says that “submission is a wider Christian virtue for all of us to pursue, and it has its unique and fitting expressions in various relationships” (The Beautiful Faith of Fearless Submission).
Submission to others must begin firstly with submission to Christ. This means following the example of Christ through obedience to the Word of God. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other...Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:12-13,16).
So submission in our Christian relationships looks like: grieving with the brokenhearted, forgiving another’s sin, humbly listening to correction, looking past insignificant quirks, speaking honestly about a situation, putting another’s interests before our own, choosing a teachable spirit, serving others, holding our fiery tongues, and in everything humbling ourselves for the sake of the gospel.
When we choose to submit to Christ, we revere and honor His Name. The scope of submission is so much deeper than we ever could have thought or imagined! Submission is not just for married people. For in submitting to Christ, we become like Him, to the praise of His glorious Name and for the sake of the gospel!
Kristen Leigh Evensen is a writer, blogger and singer/songwriter. She writes on faith and identity at The Identity Project and keeps a column at WHOLE Magazine. Her desire is to see women transformed by the Gospel! Follow her on Twitter @kristenlevensen and on Facebook.