Why Submission Is Not a Dirty Word: Paul, Submission and the Married Life (Part III)

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This is the third in a four-part conversation about what it means, practically speaking, to live a life of holy submission in marriage (Part 1, Part 2, Part 4).

All our conventions, upside down.  What the world called death, Jesus made alive.  What the world called property, Jesus honored as people.  What the world called weakness, Jesus called power.

Steve:  And these distorted, backwards, upside down perceptions of their world are still true of our world today, aren’t they?  Do you remember the old cut-down jokes we hurled at each other in middle school?  “You’re so low you could play handball on a street curb.”  My favorite was, “You’re so low you have to look up to look down.”  In a way, Jesus is still trying to get us to understand something like that.  Our worldly view of what it means to be in charge, to be in authority, to be powerful, to be on top, is dead wrong by the Jesus’ standards.

We talk about looking out for number one, being king of the hill, climbing the corporate ladder.  But that is not the life Jesus modeled for us while he was here on earth.  The only direction Jesus ever climbed on the ladder was down.

We see power in terms of win-lose situations.  Anybody who has ever shared pizza with somebody else knows this intuitively.  Let’s face it, when you get to the last two slices, no two are perfectly even.  One will always be slightly bigger.  And if you end up with the smaller piece, you lose.  As far as the world is concerned, a loser is one who ends up with the smaller slide.  A lose ends up at the bottom.  A loser is one who submits to someone else.

In the kingdom of this world, the power game always has a winner and a loser.  Either you win and I lose, or I win and you lose.  But that isn’t how it works in the Kingdom of God.  In the Kingdom, we both seek to serve and we both win.

Carolyn: It all depends on what your definition of “submit” is.  Ephesians 5:21 teaches us, “Submit to one another out of love for Christ.”  And everything that follows demonstrates just how pervasive that command is meant to be.  In all our relationships, in every arena, it is about submission.  But if that’s so, then what does that mean in real-world terms?

In a book by Jeff Van Vonderen called, Families Where Grace Is In Place, the author talks about this passage in Ephesians.  He says the word “to submit” or “to be subject,” in the Greek means “to arrange yourself underneath.”  VanVonderen says in each of these relationship pairs – husbands/wives, parents/ children, masters/ slaves – Paul is teaching us our job.  It is to place ourselves under one another, to support one another.

Once again, this is God turning all our assumptions upside down.  If the husband is the head, his job is to come underneath, to support.  If a parent is in authority, her job is to come underneath her children.  If an employer has been given the reigns, his job is to respect the people who work with him, to come underneath them and support them.

In other words, to submit means that it is not all about me!  That is a tough admission for fallen creatures.  I guess if Steve had answered my calling with an unwillingness to go, I would have had to wait for God to do his work in Steve.  After all, we are one flesh.  For me to go in one direction and Steve to go in another would tear us apart.

Steve:  But if I hadn’t supported Carolyn’s call, I would never have found my own.  Jesus said, “If anyone wants to find his life, he must lose it.”  Our experience was a classic Kingdom-of-God win-win situation.

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Carolyn Moore is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. She was born and raised in Augusta, Georgia and graduated from the University of Georgia (B.A. – Religion, 1985) and Asbury Theological Seminary (Masters of Divinity, 1998). In June of 2003, she was appointed home again to the Augusta area, where she and her family were given the joy of birthing Mosaic United Methodist Church. Mosaic focuses on reaching people in the margins. In more than ten years of weekly worship, Mosaic has seen more than 130 baptisms and hundreds of professions of faith. A satellite ministry serves adults with disabilities in downtown Augusta.

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