That seems like such a harsh word. It surely is a harsh word for those who’ve been forced to submit in an abusive, forceful, or oppressive way. I grieve for them because submission is actually a beautiful concept when it’s used and followed as God intended.

A friend asked me a few months ago about the idea of submitting to other people. More specifically, he asked, “How does it benefit me to submit to someone?”

The answer as to why we submit is easy: We submit to others because God commanded us to do so. So there. But where’s the benefit? That question got my attention.

As I pondered his question, I recalled that everything God calls for and commands in His Word is out of His love for us. His commands are for our benefit; therefore, the call to submit to one another is also for our benefit. But to get to that benefit we need to remove the baggage secular culture attaches to the idea of submission. Submission does not mean becoming a doormat for others to walk all over. Submission does not mean we are slaves to whatever they want from us. Submission is not something someone else forces on us.

Submission is a voluntary act. It’s choosing to place someone else’s needs ahead of my own.  I am not becoming a passive person that someone can walk all over, but I am choosing to act in a way that loves and encourages the other person.

We submit first and foremost to the lordship of Christ. Other specific relationships are also mentioned, such as in the marriage relationship (Eph. 5:22-33), toward church leaders (Heb. 13:17), and toward the government (Rom. 13:1-7). Submission is also implied in the commands to children and servants/employees (Eph. 6:1-7). But it doesn’t stop there.

As followers of Christ, we are to submit to one another. As Paul called believers to encourage one another, he called us to submit “to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph. 5:21). But what does that look like? Paul said it well:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).

When we come to Christ, we come to His body, the church. God designed His body so that we need one another. I cannot fully live a Christlike life without partnering with and working alongside the other believers God has placed in my life. If I live in arrogance—with a spirit that assumes I don’t need others—I miss out on the blessing of what God might want to do for me through others.

So, when I live in mutual submission with other believers, I gain the benefit of what God may say to me through these other believers. God encourages me through the words and actions of others. I’ve placed myself in a position to grow and hear from God as He works through others.

And there’s the benefit of joy. This is a joy that cannot be explained; you can only understand it through experience. There is a joy that comes in serving others. Whether we are aware of it or not, underneath that joy is the truth that, as we serve others, we serve Christ—and He is the source of our joy.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me…. Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:35-36, 40).

Why live with a submissive spirit toward others?

  1. It’s commanded. But the command is for our benefit because …
  2. We grow through submission.
  3. We experience joy through submission.

How can I serve you?

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