Perhaps one of the most difficult conversations we’ve had at Activ8Her was on the topic of submission. Because of its misuse, especially within the church, it is a word that opens the door to heated debates and full-blown arguments. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t discuss it, however, as we seek understanding of what God has to say on the matter. After all, the whole essence of the Christian life is based upon submission. We can’t live in the fullness of God’s divine destiny without practicing the principle of submission.
Chrissy and I recently sat down with Pastor Amy Carter from Abundant Life Christian Center in East Syracuse, NY, and were blessed (and challenged) by her insight as she discussed Ten Things Submission Is Not. We hope you, too, are encouraged by her wisdom. Ready to dig into a hard topic? Here we go!
Number One: Submission does not mean you are a doormat – but it might require you to wash some feet. Biblical submission never requires you to be abused, or mistreated and walked over. Because submission flows from a heart of choice, you may need to follow the example of Jesus and wash some feet. Remember how Jesus washed the feet of His betrayer when He washed the disciples feet? He didn’t skip over Judas—even though He knew what Judas was about to do.
Number Two: Submission does not require you to be abused, and you should flee abusive relationships, however, it might require you to serve in hard places. In Genesis 16, we are invited into the lives of Abraham, Sarai and Hagar and become witnesses to the dysfunction a lack of submission to God’s plan can create. When Sarai could wait no longer for God to provide the promised child, she took matters into her own hands and gave her servant, Hagar to her husband. After conceiving, Hagar allowed pride into her heart and she began to gloat to her master. As you can imagine, this did not go over well, and Sarai repays Hager’s contempt with her own. After fleeing the scene Hagar ends up in the desert, and is told by the Angel of the Lord to go back and submit to her master, Sarai. It’s here that Hagar recognizes God as, “The God Who SEES Me” (Genesis 16:13). She had a revelation in this moment of Who God was, and who she was in Him, and all of the promises He had for her. When relationships become hard how are you most likely to respond? Is it your desire to flee or remain steadfast? We can really mess up when we take matters into our own hands. God shines bright in our hard places. He knows where you are because He sees you.
Number Three: Submission is not a personality trait – it is a choice. You choose to submit; it is not forced upon another. Because submission is an attitude of the heart, it becomes a lifestyle choice, regardless of the circumstances in your life. As a single woman, Pastor Amy shared that she is intentional with the practice of submission to individuals God has placed in her life. When she doesn’t agree, she said she will intentionally practice the muscle of submission, because of the protection found through the act of Biblical submission. We can choose submission because we know God can be trusted.
Number Four: Submission is not the same as obedience; submission comes from the heart. I can obey someone by doing what I’m told, but my heart attitude may not be there. A perfect example is the cartoon of Dennis the Menace sitting in the corner enduring a moment of discipline. The caption read, “I may be sitting down but inside I am standing up.” There may be moments when you’re going to need to act out of obedience before your heart lines up in submission, and that’s okay. Be faithful to act upon God’s Word, and watch God show up in your heart. He can soften your heart, and the heart of others as you honor Him, and others, through an act of obedience.
Number Five: Submission does not remove your ability to think or reason for yourself. God never intended for anyone to be a robot. It is imperative for you to read and study the Word of God so you are able to discern if someone’s actions line up with His truth. Be careful to never allow the Word of God to be used to abuse you. As broken people, we must learn to rightly divide the truth based
Number Six: Submission does not remove personal responsibility for your actions or decisions. We must be very discerning when someone comes to us using the phrase, “God told me to tell you.” God will use others to help us along our journey, but we should never allow someone to become the voice of God for us. We’re still going to be held accountable for our actions and the decisions we make.
Number Seven: Submission is not the same as agreement; in fact, it only operates when you are NOT in agreement. Solomon asked the question, “How can two walk together lest they agree?” The answer to that question is submission. If you’re in agreement with someone, it’s easy to submit. The difficulty comes when you’re not in agreement, but because of your position at work, or at the Lord’s request, you agree to submit your will, your idea, your plan, your desire, even when you might not agree. Just don't forget number six: it does not remove personal responsibility.
Number Eight: Submission never calls for you to compromise your integrity, or violate God’s Word. God doesn’t call us to submit to sinful activities. When you don’t agree with someone who might be leading you to compromise your integrity or violate God’s Word, you respectfully decline. We submit to God’s Word first and foremost.
Number Nine: Submission does not create bondage. God desires freedom for the believer, and true submission offers this freedom. Throughout the years, the term submission has been abused, causing a great pushback. However, God set an order for submission that would bring protection to His children. He never intended for submission to bring bondage. His way always brings freedom to those in bondage.
Number Ten: Submission is not submitting only to those you find worthy; whoever you are called to submit to will never be worthy. There will be those God asks you to submit your will to that you might not necessarily want to be best friends with. You might not believe they have earned the right to your submitted heart. This is when we God is truly the only One worthy of our submission.
Keep in mind that everything God is asking us to do is based upon what Christ has already done, and we are in Christ. Jesus honored God by submitting to His plan. “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 NKJV).
Submission is serving. Whom will you serve today?