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EPHESIANS 5:21 (ESV)
“Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Submission is not a very attractive concept in our post-Christian world. In fact, due to many examples of abuses of power throughout human history, it is easy to question whether such a posture is even healthy or safe.
Yet, as Christians, we are commanded by the Lord to adorn the posture of submission in nearly every area of life. We are called to submit to governmental authorities (Rom. 13:1), to leaders in the local church (Heb. 13:17), to others within our family (Eph. 5:22-6:4), to people in the workplace (Eph. 6:5-9) and with one another within the community of faith (Eph. 5:21). As much as our culture and sinful tendencies push against an attitude of submission, Scripture indicates that it is a necessary part of a maturing Christian life.
Now, this doesn’t mean that Christians ought to blindly follow others or outsource discernment to some appointed leader. In fact, we are instructed “to test and discern what is the will of God” (Rom. 12:2). Every piece of practical wisdom, including this very devotional, should be vetted by prayerful, Scripture-fed discernment.
With that said, submissive Christians are ones which have a softer approach to human relationships than the rest of the world. To be submissive, in the way that Scripture describes, requires a certain ‘inner dialogue’ which says, “I am willing to trust and follow. I am willing to use God’s gifts in me in order to cooperate with the wellbeing and direction of these people.”
As we come upon the anniversary of the global pandemic, we can admit that these statements have been put to the test. We can see how we have either embraced submission or bulked against it. But as it pertains to Christian community, let’s consider how critical it is for these statements to be in our minds.
Imagine for a moment what would it be like to attend a small group Bible study and yet question the qualifications of the host? What would it be like to see believers struggling to meet a need while doubting whether or not to participate because you’ve learned that it’s safer not to meddle in other people’s lives?
These may be extreme examples, but they reveal what is necessary. Both trust and mutual cooperation are essential for believers to cultivate Christian community. Let’s freely admit that is difficult to trust others, especially at a time in history when fear and hatred are more common than mutual submission.
But, Ephesians 5:21 reminds us that we submit to one another not because Christians are flawless but rather because we love Jesus so much. A high view of Jesus’ love, grace and mercy cultivates an attitude in us which makes Christian community so much more harmonious. People will disappoint us at times, even well-intentioned Christians, but it doesn’t mean that we give up on community or submission. It just means that we bow our knees even lower before the throne of grace in order to receive the unending, undeserving mercy which flows from King Jesus.
Are you taking steps into the deeper waters of Christian community? There is great joy to be found when we are willing to trust others because we trust Jesus.
Lord, even though distrust comes so naturally, help us to cooperate and join with others for our benefit and for Your glory. Through Jesus, Amen!