Uh oh. Hot topic here. Well, it doesn’t have to be. Let’s all take a breath. The beauty of biblical submission is that it’s all about trust and not at all about slavery or compulsion. Seriously. Take a deep breath, sweet gal.
How can submission be beautiful?
Biblical submission is beautiful because it provides the world around us a picture of Jesus’ love for us and His followers’ trust in Him. It’s a portrait of a believer’s relationship with her Lord.
So when I submit to one in authority over me, I demonstrate a humble spirit, a willing heart and loving allegiance. I show those around me that I can calmly lay aside my preferences and agendas because I trust that, ultimately, I will be protected.
What is biblical submission anyhow?
Scripture does not command us to submit willy nilly. But it does require us to submit first to God, then to those whom He has entrusted authority over us.
- We are told not to submit to foolish rules and regulations that someone tries to enforce upon us in order to please God or gain spiritual enlightenment. (Colossians 2:20-23)
- We are told to submit to the spiritual leaders in our local church (which we’ve willingly joined or attend). (Hebrews 13:17)
- We are instructed to submit to our government rulers and institutions. (1 Peter 2:13-17)
- We are told to submit to those in authority over us at work. (1 Peter 2:18)
- We actually are instructed to submit to one another (within the body of Christ, the church). (Ephesians 5:21)
- And, yes, the Bible instructs wives to submit to their own husbands (not all men), while husbands are told to love their wives sacrificially and without threat of abandonment. (Ephesians 5:22)
But let’s clarify the definition of submission. To submit means to willingly place oneself under the authority and protection of another. When you submit, you do not lie down like a doormat so that someone can trample you. Instead, we are to wisely submit to leadership that, when possible, we have chosen because we believe it is trust worthy.
And when we submit to someone else’s authority, we also become their responsibility. That person or group becomes accountable to God for their treatment and protection of those whom they lead.
So while submitting is certainly difficult at times, ultimately the one to whom you have submitted for protection and leadership will be judged. On the other hand – and this is important – when we refuse to submit to the authority over us, we remove ourselves from that protection and are accountable to God for our choices.
That’s why it is absolutely permissible to refuse to submit to someone who is endangering you, compromising your convictions or asking you to do something contrary to God’s character and will. That person or group is not protecting you; they’re endangering you. And if you move out from under their authority, you simply need to be able to answer to God for that decision.
Why do we struggle with biblical submission?
Well, duh, we want to do what we want to do. Need I say more? Even a two-year-old knows they want to be the boss of themselves. It’s completely human nature to desire to chart our own course…or at least our own afternoon!
I’ve struggled at times to submit to my husband’s leadership. I’m pretty strong-willed, opinionated and stubborn. I’m also smart and have decent judgment. So it’s not easy for me to allow someone else – even someone I love and trust – to have the last word about a decision.
But when I remind myself that God has set up a chain of command for a reason and that ultimately I’m being asked to trust Him, I’m more prone to willingly go along with my husband’s decisions.
Plus, I’ve discovered that when I willingly submit to James’ leadership as my husband, he actually takes that role more seriously, more gravely. Whereas when I argue with him, he tends to dig in his heels and stubbornly engage with me in that battle of the wills that erodes the trust and love in our marriage. And that gets us nowhere fast. In other words, the more graciously I submit, the more graciously he leads.
Also, I’ve learned over 30+ years of marriage, that God knew what He was doing when He set up this set of checks and balances. As I submit to James’ leadership, he actually grows to respect and trust me more. We have a lot of give and take in our marriage. He respects me and looks to me for discernment frequently. We engage in conversation and make most of our decisions together. So rarely do I really have to yield to him on anything at this point. Love and respect eventually cultivate trust and unity in a relationship so that we work in tandem more beautifully.
Look, the Bible absolutely does not command us to submit to people or institutions that ask anything of us that is unlawful, dangerous or immoral. And many of the relationships we have with someone in authority are voluntary. In this country, anyhow, you get to choose who you marry, who you work for, who you worship with. So really we have no valid reason to buck at authority the way most of us do, as though it’s been imposed upon us.
Our problems with authority rarely have anything to do with genuine mistreatment. No, our biggest complaint about submission is simply that we find it humiliating, degrading or just plain counter intuitive. Our pride demands that we be heard, that we stick up for ourselves, that we let the other person know that we can handle this ourselves, thank you very much.
But, dear gal, that kind of behavior does nothing to help paint the big picture. Remember, every time we graciously do the hard thing of submitting to the proper authority’s leadership and protection, we have the opportunity to give someone just a small glimpse of how much we trust God.
And that’s what submission is really all about: trusting God. And trusting God to care for you, lead you and protect you while you obey Him? That is absolutely beautiful.
Do you have thoughts you’d like to share about today’s topic? I’d love to hear from you today! I tend to take as much time off from work as I can during the weekends, so I may not reply to your comments unless you ask me a direct question. But I’d love for you to carry on this conversation in the comment section below. And you can know for certain that I read and value each and every comment. Please remember that I try to keep this space free from controversy, so let’s stay away from the topic of politics or other divisive issues.