Day 2 – Some Thoughts on Submission
Submission is frequently talked about within the church in reference to husbands, wives, or political authorities. But today, I want us to talk about Jesus.
As Christians, there is someone we submit to above and over any other person, the one to whom “all authority in heaven and on earth” was given (Matthew 28:18). What does this mean for us? To me, it means I will disobey those in authority before I disobey Jesus. It means that, if my husband asks me to sin, I will say no, regardless of how much I respect him. For some believers, obedience to Jesus will mean jail time, or worse. Consider the Chinese churches who choose to meet illegally in secret rather than censor the gospel according to government policy. Consider the person who must leave their spouse after experiencing the effects of deep-seated sin. There comes a point where each of us must swear our allegiance to either another human or to God.
I don’t say this to negate what the Bible says about respecting rulers or your spouse. As Romans 12:18 says: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” But even this verse comes out of Paul’s strong desire to see the gospel reach all nations. This is what I love about Paul. No matter what he writes or preaches, it all comes from a heart so deeply passionate about the gospel that he would sacrifice anything for others to know God (see Romans 9:3). He extends this expectation of sacrifice to those who claim to follow Christ, giving the early church a long list of principles to live by, so that the gospel message would be above reproach or criticism.
– Have you ever had to choose between obeying Christ and your government? What did this look like?
– If not, what sort of scenario might force you to make this decision?
As an American Christian, I have the luxury of practicing my beliefs without government interference. Though I might not agree with the decisions of our leaders, I am more likely to get arrested for protesting an issue I care about because of my faith, rather than for my faith itself. I realize there are Christians in America who feel persecuted…but I’ll save that for another post. 😉 Again, let’s turn back to Jesus.
Jesus tells us to obey his commandments. He says, in his final words, to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Submission to your king, prime minister, president, husband, or wife is secondary to submission to Jesus, and always will be.
I believe the best way we can submit to Jesus over our nation or political party is to ask, again and again, how do my words and actions move the gospel forward? And, the scarier question, how has my desire to bring about a certain political reality hindered the gospel message?
– Think about your political activities over the past 6 months–letters, phone calls, Facebook posts, discussions with family, etc. What effect do these political activities have on the gospel? Positive? Negative?
– Have you ever alienated someone because of your political beliefs? Could you have communicated differently so that you might have had the opportunity to share the gospel with that person?
– Could you see yourself letting go of certain political convictions for the sake of building relationships for the gospel? Why or why not?
Pause for a minute to pray about your answers to the questions above. You might also look at Romans 12:18 in context (lots of good stuff in there).
I find myself trying to strike a balance between two truths these days. First, that the love of God will move forward in spite of the most corrupt worldly powers. Whatever your nightmare scenario of government might be (fascism, socialism, take your pick…), our futures are still secure and the gospel message will move forward as we obey God over men.
The second truth, however, is that sin, death, poverty, and oppression grieve the heart of God. We cannot use the first truth to justify our removal from political activity, because political acts affect real people–God’s children. The expression “I don’t care about politics” comes from a place of privilege. It means that you can continue living your life reasonably well without having to get your hands dirty in the political mess. We all understand the sentiment, but we must remember that it is our duty as Christians to look out for the oppressed and forgotten.
As you think about balancing your faith with political action, what questions come to mind? I would appreciate hearing your thoughts as I prepare the next several posts, so we can consider together how we might fight for justice without just fighting with each other. 🙂