Do you always have to have your way? As you interact with others, do you not only feel you are always in the right, but also try to make everyone do what you want and serve you? Or, are you open to the fact that your way might not be the only viable opinion?
“Submitting to one another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:21)
Human nature is such that we tend to believe in ourselves. Each of us inherently thinks we are right and our way is best. Yet selfishly insisting on our own preferences and rights sows discord among others who also favor their preferences and rights. That is why the Bible teaches we are to submit to each other:
“…Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5,6)
This does not suggest an absence of leadership. Neither does it mean there is no structure in society; to the contrary, God, in His wisdom, has set up a system of authority within the family, church, and government.
In the family, He has designated the husband as the head of the household. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22) In the church, we are to submit to the authority of our pastors and elders. “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17) In government we must submit to the secular authorities. “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (Romans 13:1)
Yet within this authority structure God commands each of us to submit to one another. So how do we reconcile–how do we make sense of–the idea of both authority over others and submission to each other? Jesus provides the answer:
“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man [Jesus Himself] came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25b-28 NLT)
Things are different in God’s economy–in His kingdom. In secular situations, people struggle to get into supervisory positions. They have been run around and taken advantage of by those in authority over them, so when they have “paid their dues” and are in a position to do so, they then proceed to do the same to others. Yet Jesus says this is not how leadership in God’s kingdom is exercised.
In God’s kingdom, authority means service. It means responsibility for others before God and a concern for their well-being. It is the idea of servant leadership. And contrary to what the ungodly think of when they think of authority, it does not involve getting others to serve your selfish desires; service to Christ involves doing what is best for the ones you are responsible for.
So, if you are a husband and are in a God-given position of authority over your wife, you will not use this authority to turn her into your personal slave. Rather, you will seek her well-being. As an employer or landlord you will conduct your business remembering that God will hold you responsible for how you dealt with those under you. And in a position of governmental leadership you will act on behalf of the good of your constituency, rather than using your opportunity to benefit yourself.
So, are you someone who selfishly insists that others serve you and do things your way? Or do you submit to others in the fear of God?
Help me not selfishly insist on my own way. Rather, help me submit to others in the fear of God. Amen.