My husband learned to love curling as a young boy when his father would flood an ice rink in their Manitoba back yard and create “rocks” by freezing old jam cans filled with water. Curling teams were organized in the neighbourhood and my husband’s father was the self-appointed skip (captain) of the family team. As son number three, my husband was invariably relegated to be lead, whose role was to set up defense rocks. He quickly learned that curling is a gentleman’s game and that all team members must submit to the skip’s directions for rock placement and for sweeping to curl the rock. Unfortunately, while a youngster playing lead, he rarely had the opportunity to take out the opponents’ rock. Therefore, submission was not always easy for a young boy whose position rarely allowed his rock to score the winning point.
Like the game of curling, in real life, we are not all called to score the winning point. In fact, the whole concept of submission, whether to authority or to one another, is usually a hard pill to swallow. For most of us, it goes against every fiber of our being. Sadly, I’ve even heard Seventh-day Adventist pastors chuckle about their “heavy foot” and their close encounters with the traffic officer intent on enforcing the speed limit. And we often hear such phrases as, “I told him!” or “She deserved to be put in her place!”
In fact, a Christian who chooses a path directly opposed to the culture of the world is judged to be inherently weak. We all know that television promotes aggressive conflict resolution for entertainment purposes. For example, in the movie "The Quiet Man," the prototype for masculinity, John Wayne, only gains the respect of his new wife and family when at the end of the film, he gives in against his resolve never to fight, and physically brawls with the antagonist. Indeed, it would be boring to see a family calmly resolve a problem and therefore, the hero pretty much always takes an aggressive approach, scoring when he or she throws in a few winning punches.
However, as Christians, we are called to turn away from this mindset and approach our relationships with an attitude of submission. Submission toward others is first built on a foundation of submission to God. Many years ago before we were married, our pastor counseled my husband and me that problems in a marriage are addressed by first looking to our vertical relationship – that is between God and us. I’ve since learned that when we learn how to submit to God, we learn appropriate submission to others, including our parents, spouse, church family and the authorities who make the laws of the land. However, it is a hard lesson to learn in a world where personal rights trump submission to any authority, including God.
IN OUR STAND AGAINST PREDOMINANT CULTURE, UNDERSTANDING SUBMISSION IS VITAL TO HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS
God calls us to “be filled with the Spirit” (New American Standard Bible, Ephesians 5:18). As God’s children we are to “walk as children of Light” (Eph. 5:8) and “learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph. 5:10). These verses explain why it is impossible to submit to God while we are attempting to control our own life and please ourselves. This is why when we are empty of self and filled with God’s Spirit we will have a clearer understanding for the need of submission.
SUBMITTING TO AUTHORITY
God has ordained authority to accomplish His ultimate plan. In the game of curling, for example, the skip stands in the house and determines the delivery of the rock, or the weight, turn and line of the throw. The team players cannot see the far end, and are therefore submissive to the skip, remaining intent on their job, following the skip’s verbal direction for sweeping, to keep the rock going in the right direction and to speed its delivery. Just as the curling team submits to the skip and to one another in their appointed placement on the team, we also must learn to submit to authority. Just as in a curling game the skip sometimes judges incorrectly, we too may face leaders who make mistakes. But God calls us to submit because all leaders are set up or removed by God, and submission is part of our growing to be more like Jesus.
As Christians, “every person is to be in subjection to the governing authority. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1). Therefore, while at times like Peter and the apostles, we must “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), we need to recognize that God has ordained such authority.
SUBMITTING TO ONE ANOTHER IS PART OF SANCTIFICATION
Submission to one another is essential to the Christian walk, beginning from childhood. We learn from Luke 2:51,52 that submission to Jesus’ earthly parents contributed to His growth to spiritual maturity. We also learn that it is profitable for grownups to submit, for we are called to do so with “joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13: 17).
Because submission itself is a trait of the Trinity, we grow in unity and godliness as we submit to one another. This is how we grow to be more like Jesus, who not only submitted to His parents, but also to the authorities of His day and suffered unjustly for our sins.
SUBMITTING TO GAIN WISDOM
Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). When we submit to God’s Word and seek the wisdom and counsel of those who are in authority over us, we can gain God’s wisdom. In fact, it is a serious matter to learn submission for “whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (Romans 13:2).
There is no one person who has all the answers. Together we can search the word and learn from God’s word and one another.
LEARNING HOW TO SUBMIT
We read in 19 Manuscript Releases that it is the “duty of everyone who professes to believe the truth to do all in his power to remove prejudice, while never lessening the importance of truth by concessions to the world. We are to show by our manners, by our words, by our spirit that we have learned in the school of Christ. We should not manifest harshness of spirit, indulging coarseness of speech. The great Teacher says, 'Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls'" (White 209).
Indeed, the test of whether we are truly united and submissive to one another, as Christ would have us to be, is whether we can submit joyfully. In Eph. 5:18, we are called to be filled with the Spirit, “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and [to] be subject to one another in the fear of Christ."
It is not easy to submit one to another, and judging by the world’s standards, we rarely score the winning point when by God’s grace we choose not to press our point or engage in confrontation to win an argument. But like the lead on a curling team, our role is to contribute to the overall health of the entire team. As God’s children, we are engaged in a war against evil and God has called us to walk with Him, to represent Him in our relationships, starting in the home and including the church, our colleagues at work and all authorities He has set in place. His call to unity includes submission to one another.