Submission – Defied (Part 2 of 3)

3 part post on Biblical submission.  Read part one here.

Submission – Defied
Why do we struggle so much with submission, and why is it so hard for us to see and acknowledge the struggle?  Our struggle with submission is primarily rooted in our sins of pride and arrogance.  Submission runs counter to our self-sufficiency and the place that we feel we occupy in our church or work or community or family.  Furthermore, in our mind, we need not submit to authority or to one another when we are right.  Admit it:  you’re right more than you’re wrong, a whole lot more!  At least I am.  But we can’t all be right all the time. Also, submission finds its fullest expression when we believe we are right but choose to submit to one another anyway.  Our pride, unfortunately won’t let us submit, readily or easily.  There is a fight within us and our pride seems to be on the winning side more often than not.  Pride is only one reason we have dispensed with submission, of course.  It is also our unbelief in what God has instituted.  We have installed our own values in place of God’s values.  We don’t believe that God would have our best at heart, that submission is best for us, for our relationships, or for our church.  We also fear giving up control and authority to others.  We have trampled on submission and authority and we reap what we have sown within our churches, our families and our communities

It would also seem that our culture would mitigate against the Christian virtue of submission as it does many of our values.  This only serves to make it that much more difficult to practice Biblical submission.  What is encouraged in its place are the values of pride, rebellion, and self-sufficiency to name a few.  In our world, we as individuals become the sole authority by which we live and on which we make our decisions.  Nothing should be allowed to stand in our way.  So there is no place to encourage and exhort this Christian practice.  Submission has become counter-cultural, which would incidentally make it more powerful if practiced.

In the church, the lack of submission to authority and the lack of mutual submission show up in many ways.  Because we know that we should not openly defy leadership or a fellow church member, we will find quiet passive ways to undermine the church.  We become conscientious objectors, our attendance becomes spotty, or our participation in certain activities is non-existent.  Unfortunately, our attitude and these actions show forth an underlying failure of our hearts to submit and the church becomes weaker because of it.  There is a paradox here as well:  We will submit at our workplace, but not at church.  Why?  You might be fired from work, but you won’t be fired from your place of worship.  And besides, it’s your church after all.  We all need to be reminded who is the Head of the Church.  It is not you or me or the Session or a family or an individual – it is our Lord Jesus Christ.  It’s His Church.  In many ways, it has become disheartening to see the lack of mutual submission and submission to authority within the church.   Could we not trace back some of our church splits to a failure to follow through on the principle of Ephesians 4:21 (mutual submission)?

At this point, you might wonder if there is a place for defiance of our authorities if those authorities lead us to follow a path that is counter to the Word of God.  The answer is yes and that is even a part of the history of the formation of our denomination.  There are also individual churches that have been led astray and have thus threatened to lead the members of that church astray.  For the sake of the Gospel, defiance is sometimes necessary.  However, I have more in mind the hundreds of decisions that are made within the church that are not in direct contradiction to the Gospel, but may lead us into disagreement based on our preferences, instead of principles based on God’s Word.  This might include the formation or cessation of ministries, the way we order the worship service, the elements of worship that are included on a weekly basis, the process of building or renovation, the direction of the church or any number of other decisions within the church.  Too often, we are not trying to guard the Gospel as much as we are trying to guard our own preferences or desires.  We may even be able to quote chapter and verse to support our point, but often this is just our way of applying a spiritual covering to our own predilections.

Last part will be posted tomorrow.

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