Why the S-Word Makes People Cringe

Before you get yourself all worked up, let me tell you that this post is about submission.  Please forgive me for bringing to mind any other controversial words starting with the letter S.  But truthfully, when people start talking about the idea of submission, we have all kinds of preconceived notions fly through our minds.  I know I do. I think this is because most of us have heard it taught poorly and have seen it practiced poorly. 

I also want to tell you before we go any further that submission is not just a command for godly wives who live in the buckle of the Bible belt.   (Although in terms of preconceived notions, that's a popular one).  Now, since I am a wife, I will most certainly go there, but if you're reading this post and you're single or male (or both), hear me out. 

Two passages come to my mind when I think of submission.  The first is found in I Peter 2 and 3.  We are told to "submit ourselves to every human institution" and that "this is the will of God."  He gives us a pretty good list of those institutions: government, those acting on behalf of government, masters (or in our case, perhaps bosses), husbands (if you're a wife), and in all of those we submit to God Himself.  That sounds okay, right? But then Peter specifically mentions that we are not only required to submit to those institutions that do it well.  He makes it a point to say that we ought to submit to the ones that are unjust and even mean.

Did Peter know what he was asking?

Submission is not for the Feeble
Submission comes from the greek word hupotasson, which literally translates "to arrange under." The idea is that you voluntarily put yourself underneath the object of your submission.  This is different than obedience (althought they walk closely together). Obedience infers obligation.  Submission infers choice.

I used to think submission as a kind of weak, subservient, 2nd rate type mentality.  And truthfully, I think a lot of people picture it that way.  No wonder people cringe when they hear the word.   However, in this passage the example of submission is Christ (v. 21).  Did Christ have the power to say no to the cross?  He told Pilate he most certainly did. Did Christ have every right to stand up for Himself for being treated so unjustly? I think we could make a pretty great case that He did.  So what is it that caused Him to submit?  The key is found at the end of verse 23.  Christ "continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly."

There is a direct correlation between your submission to the authorities in your life and how much you trust God.

We see this even more beautifully in Philippians 2. Christ is God.  He has all the authority and power that comes with that position.  And when the Creator steps into creation His creation persecutes Him Christ does not fight back.  Why?  Because Christ was submitting to a higher authority.

So, then, practically speaking what does this look like? 

1. Offer respect for the position because it was given by God, whether you respect the person or not.  When we refuse to give respect to a person in authority, what we say to God is, "You chose poorly."
2. When you find yourself having a hard time with submission, it is fair to ask how much you trust God.
3. The only exception to this rule is when submission to an earthly authority compromises submission to Go.

Likewise, Wives
Wives, this is hard for us, isn't it?  I Peter 3 tells us why.  We are afraid.  We might even be afraid for legitmate reason.  And the scriptures tell us that when we submit to our husbands, it is lovely and good when we are not afraid of frightening things.  WHAT???  Here's what that means.  There are times when we have to trust God enough to trust our husbands when it is the scariest thing on earth to do.  If we're completely honest, submission is hard for us because we are afraid we will lose our voice.  We're fearful our husbands won't give us a good consideration when he makes decisions.  And if I'm brutally honest, sometimes I think I can do it better.

But the deal is that being heard and submission are not mutually exclusive.

I'll give you an example.  Let's say your husband asks you to do something he normally takes care of that will take a considerable amount of time.  Let's say it's mowing the lawn.  You have a pretty packed day already and feel overwhelmed by the idea of adding anything to your schedule.  He's not your boss, he's your equal - and yet, God has told us to give our husbands respect.  (Equal in value, different in role).  You could walk down a few roads in this moment:

1. You could assert yourself and make sure you get heard by telling him something along the lines of: "I already have to do x, y, and z.  Sorry.  It ain't happening." (This could also be followed by some snarky comment about him being inconsiderate and only thinking about what he needs... you get the idea).

2. You could  say "yes, sir," rearrange your schedule, mow the lawn, stay up late trying to finish all the things you have to do.  You're upset, but you're a good submissive wife, so you just keep your mouth shut.  But you're seething on the inside. 

3. You tell him, "I would love to do that for you.  I already have x, y, and z on my plate today.  I'm not sure I have time to do them all.  Can you help me think through which would be the most important?"  In other words, you've given him the information but have respectfully kept the ball in his court.

The point is wives, that you are his helpmate (another post on this later I hope).  He needs your input.  Your opinion is valuable.  But the method of delivery matters.

Likewise, Husbands
It is interesting to me that the same likewise (telling wives to submit to their husbands in the same way Christ submitted to the cross) is used to tell husbands to understand their wives.  I think there is a level of submission required to understand wives.  It is a selfless act.  It takes a lot of work.  The job never ends (because we always change). And it necessarily means that you love her enough to keep her best interests in mind. 

Can I tell you how my husband makes submission easy for me?  He very clearly communicates that he loves, cherishes, and values me.  I trust him because I know that he has my best interests at heart.  Husbands, if your wife is struggling submitting to you or you feel like she is disrespectful it might be time to examine whether or not she feels valued and cared for by you.  I realize this is not always the case, but you'd be foolish not to give it a consideration.

God Works on Your Behalf
Let us be the kind of people who trust God so much that we are willing to put ourselves underneath the authority of others.


  1. When I read the title of this post, I knew exactly which "S" word it would be! ;)