The Christian “S” Word
What’s that? Submission is the Christian “S” word. For some people, submission is like a dirty swear word. It is dreaded by some people, especially wives, and pastors fear to preach on it.
Perhaps they should fear to preach about it because in the western Christian church, false teachings around it seem to be running rampant. I realize this is a very controversial subject but I felt compelled to share some small tidbits of this vast subject that the Holy Spirit has been teaching me on this subject and this is not intended to be exhaustive by any means.
Submission vs. Obedience
Submission and obedience are not the same thing. Obedience is doing what someone else has told you to do, regardless of how you feel inside or what your internal motivation is. Submission is also doing what someone else has told you to do but it is dependent completely on what your internal motivation is—you must be doing it freely from your will.
Your will is not “free” if you are feeling coerced or intimidated or in fear of bad consequences if you refuse to do the thing asked of you. For it to be submission and not merely obedience you must feel completely free and safe to say “no” to the request. If you do not feel free to say “no” due to intimidation and the fear that it brings, then it is obedience and not submission.
God does not force submission upon us. He gives us free will choice and woos us with love, not intimidation. Like the way that God treats us, one person should not be attempting to use manipulation, control or intimidation against another.
If you are or have been the intimidator/controller in any relationship and have been intimidating people on purpose, you need to stop it. You need to repent and ask God’s forgiveness and you may possibly need prayer for deliverance from the need to control.
You will need to start allowing the other person to say “no” to you without you doing whatever you were doing to “punish” them for their “noncompliance”, which is commonly some sort of anger, but could also be withholding, passivity or rejection. Give them way more lee-way than you would have ever previously have thought was necessary. You must give more than you think, because it is unbalanced right now and so you are feeling it in an unbalanced way—-the unbalance feels “normal” to you.
You will need to learn how to lead from love and respect, like God does with us, instead of leading with fear. This will take some time because the “control” that you were wielding feels good to your flesh. But doesn’t your spirit really want to be like Jesus? Of course it does, so lead from love, not fear. Depending on the severity of the problem you may need prayer ministry or counseling. Seek it out and get the help you need.
If you are or have been in fear in any relationship, you need to stop it. You need to repent and ask God’s forgiveness for fearing man instead of trusting God, and you may possibly need prayer for deliverance from fear.
You will need to stand up to your fears. You must not let fear rule in any area of your life. You must rise up to face your fears way more than you think you need to. You are experiencing this relationship from an unbalanced perspective and so your fear feels “normal” and “comfortable” to you, that’s why you will need to stand up to your fears even more than you thought you would need to.
Allow God to heal you from this fear with His perfect love. Remind yourself about how much He loves you, how much He will protect you, how much He will provide for your every need and that He will never leave you nor forsake you.
You may need to put “boundaries” in place. The needed boundaries may be some sort of temporary or permanent separation, whether that means leaving your church, leaving your job, or a separation in your marriage. What you do may even look like “rebellion” to other people, but it may be what you need to do in order to get free from fear. You will need to get over the fear of other people’s opinions on this matter. But stopping the fear is imperative and it is your responsibility. Depending on the situation, whether it’s your spouse, pastor or boss, you may be in need of prayer ministry or counseling. Seek it out and get the support that you need.
So what does real submission look like? It looks mutual, not one-sided. Between Christian to Christian we should be mutually submitting to each other. There should be no fear, intimidation or control involved. Instead we should freely and in love be willing to submit to one another. This is in all Christian to Christian relationships, including marriage.
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Eph. 5:21
…be subject [same Greek word as submit] one to another… 1 Pet. 5:5
I hope that it was obvious that this was just one possible dynamic in any given relationship. Even around the topic of submission (or lack thereof) there could be other elements involved such as pride, selfishness, laziness, or outright rebellion. Those are outside the scope of this short article.