Monday, July 4, 2011

Submission (Ephesians 5:18-6:9)

When looking at the “Household Rules” passage in Ephesians, it is helpful to remember the context of the passage, and that submission in each relationship—Wives and Husbands, Children and Fathers, and Slaves and Masters—are examples of a much larger concept: being filled with the Spirit.

[18] And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, [19] addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, [20] giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, [21] submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
[22] Wives, to your own husbands, as to the Lord…

The mandate here is to be filled with the spirit, which is further developed as an idea with the gerund verbs: addressing (instructing), singing, giving (thanks), and submitting.

Submission is a discipline that all Christians practice.

That does not mean, as some try to imply, that all Christians submit universally to each other. There are clearly defined lines of authority in life. Few would try to argue that parents need to submit to their children. However, especially in the West, we are far too loath to place ourselves under any authority. This is a spiritual symptom of the larger problem that we all struggle with… namely sin. Our submission should be given in response to our trust in and obedience to God, not as a reflection of how worthy a particular authority may be.

That being said, the harder task in this whole discipline might be the role of authority. However hard it may be to present a holy picture to the world of how believers respond to God, it is far harder to love and people the way God loves us.

Maintaining the distinction between authority in a particular role and worth as an individual is also a challenge for westerners, since we place so much of an individual’s worth in the roles they play in life. The fact that wives are called to submit to their own husbands does not in any way translate into women submitting to men in general, or even a particular woman, say Cheryl submitting to her husband Jason outside of her role as his wife.

The role of authority is visible:

…In Spirit-filled husbands treating their wives as their own selves—with all the benefit of doubt, striving to fulfill wishes and goals, and personal fulfillment that that implies.

…In Spirit-filled fathers helping children learn to live well without provoking anger or frustration in the child or demanding things of them simply because it is possible.

…And in Spirit-filled bosses recognizing that the authority they exercise in any vocational task comes from a source that holds all players involved in that task in equal worth.

In other words, authority should always be wielded in such a way that it benefits those that are under it, not just those who hold it.

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