During indoor playtime, two preschool-aged children exchanged unfriendly dialogue after girl A attempted to control girl B:
“You’re not allowed to play in the block center!” emphatically exclaimed child A.
“You’re not the boss of me!” expediently argued child B.
From the outset, two things are observable: girl A desires to have control, and girl B is not willing to submit to her control. Now I admit, I do smirk slightly when I hear children say the “You’re not the boss of me” clause because, not only do they say it with great verbal force; they also show it with (almost) even greater physical force: head jerking, hip swaying, tightened eyes . . . Even from such a young age, we clearly set the boundaries of just who and who’s not in control. But, even when we clearly know who holds the upper hand, do we submit to their authority well, or do we resist? We know that’s a rhetorical question. What is it about human nature that resists authority? Why do we always want to feel like we are in control (even though we never really are)?
Desiring to be in control is innate in human nature; it’s as old as mankind: Eve desired to be “Like God” (Genesis 3:5); she desired to know, which in and of itself is desiring control. Have you ever heard the expression “Knowledge is power”? Odds are, you have. So, human nature says, “If I gain knowledge, I will gain power—and I desire power, so therefore I must gain knowledge.” Sadly though, the knowledge we so fruitlessly desire is that of the flesh—not of the Spirit. And the irony is, true knowledge, which is only found in Christ, certainly does give us power, but not of the fleshy, despotic kind; rather, it’s one of the greatest strength—that of the spiritual, submissive kind.
In the previous publication of Christian Women’s Magazine, our example, or imprint was explored. In the articles, we were reminded of the great power in our example, whether good or bad. This topic of submission ties in nicely with the topic of being an example to others because of the power submission holds.
Wait! Did I just place the words ‘power’ and ‘submission’ side by side? That appears to be an oxymoron? The world will tell you—human, sinful nature will tell you—that submission is a sign of weakness. But, what did the Apostle Peter say to the “Elect” (1 Peter 1:2) on the topic? “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear” (3:1-2). The willful act of being submissive resonates so loudly that even without a single verbal utterance, the husband may be won over! How true the cliche, “Actions speak louder than words,” is here. What tremendous power lies in the purposeful action of placing yourself under the control of someone else. So, the submissive may appear to be weak and ignorant, yet their obedience reveals their strength and wisdom.
Wives are not the only group who God told to be submissive; we have all been told to submit to one another “In the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). True, God gave different roles to men and women, but that does not mean we don’t all have to submit to one another out of reverence to Him and His authority.
Think of the ultimate authority—God. He doesn’t have to submit to anything, or anyone. He, speaking to Job, said: ”Who has preceded Me that I should pay him; Everything under heaven is Mine” (Job 41:11). Yet, even though He made it all, and owns it all, He allowed Himself to be confined in a body of flesh and then “Humbled Himself and became obedient to the point death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8)! If we meditate on that thought, our minds bend with the hows and whys: How did he confine Himself, harnessing all that power? And after we stop trying to figure that out, we move on to, why would He do it? We could never truly grasp the answer to that either.
Additionally, God, the Son, not only confined Himself into the body of a man (mind bending), humbled Himself (as an example that we should follow), and became obedient to a horrific death (because our sin demanded it); He also submitted Himself to the Roman government (another example for us). He urged the taunting Pharisees to, ““Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”” (Mark 12:17). The Apostle Paul expounded on Jesus’ words when he, in the same letter mentioned above, stated:
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2:13-17)
No ordinance was left out there. And not to be missed is the basis behind the command: It’s all “For the Lord’s sake.” Why? It’s His “will” and by doing so, we will “Silence the ignorance of foolish men.” Silence by submission? Still seems like the despotic would silence by force. And notice, as God’s nature requires, we must do it willingly, because of the liberty/freedom we have in Christ (because of His sacrifice) and our allegiance to our King, Jesus Christ—because we are on His side. We will fight for Him.
To close with a message of hope—and a smile, let’s recall the Moabite woman, Ruth. She was not an Israelite; she had no inheritance with the children of God. Yet, through her dedication and willing submission to, first, her Judean mother-in-law, Naomi, and then, Naomi’s relative, Boaz (her future husband), she gained an invaluable inheritance: a son, Obed—the great-grandfather to King David—in the lineage of Jesus Christ! Wow! I would encourage you read the brief, four chapter book of Ruth, observing Ruth’s submissive character throughout, beginning in Moab, and how her perceived weakness: following Ruth to Judah, laying by the feet of Boaz, etc. was actually her greatest strength. May we always turn to our Bibles to define strength and never cease to ask God for help in shedding our human nature, which desires to have control, and clothing ourselves with the willingness—and strength to submit to all those around us, for God’s glory!