Summary: The skill of submission is needed today for a healthy relationship with God and others.
What does it actually mean to “honor”? Can anyone explain what that really looks like, in 2010? We know that is one of the ten commandments – “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Ex. 20:12). We know that our culture sets aside days like today, Mother’s Day, and later in June we have Father’s Day, ostensibly to “honor” our parents. We hear brides and grooms covenant that they will “honor” one another. So we have a basis, a desire, even a commitment, to “honor” – but what does that actually mean, what does it look like, how do we do that? Suggestions??
Our spring sermon series is called “Doing Life: Relationship Skills from the Bible for Today”. I introduced the series three weeks ago with a call to re-engage life and relationships, to desire for ourselves the kind of life that Jesus desires for us, the “life abundant” of John 10:10, and to recognize that experiencing that kind of life requires us to invest in maintaining and growing our relationships with God and each other. I want to explore together some of the essential skills that we need, that are not very prevalent in our society today, in order to have healthy relationships with God and with others. The first of those skills we explored two weeks ago, when we built a foundation from Genesis which affirms we were created for relationship, sin has broken relationship, and the only way to deal with sin is to repent – which means repenting in the places where we have broken relationship. I finished that message with a challenge and encouragement, based on Jesus’ command in Matt 5: “23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” Jesus’ call to repentance includes a call to go to another person, in this specific it is someone that “has something against you” – someone you have sinned against – and make it right. I hope, for the sake of your healthy relationships and the Kingdom of God, you had the courage to swallow your pride and repent and start to restore and reconcile some broken relationships. I made one first step in one relationship, and what I learned is it is going to take more than one first step… so I’m going to take another step… even though it feels difficult and discouraging. Because the end goal is worth it, and because it is a simple matter of obedience no matter how it ends up.
Today’s Relationship Skill: Submission
Moving forward from repentance as an essential relationship skill, today I want to look at the skill of submission. I think this skill is essential if we are to obey the command to “honor” which we began with. Submission is a clear Biblical command, I’ll show you that in a moment. But it is also a bad word in our culture. I challenge anyone here to think of a single positive cultural message around the word “submit”. I looked up some basic definitions of the word, and they were all profoundly negative: “surrender”, “give up”, “yield to another’s will or opinion”, “To be submissive or resigned; to yield without murmuring”. The connotations were entirely negative, as if “submit” was the last straw, the worst thing, the admission of defeat, the conclusion that someone stronger was going to get their way in your life and there is nothing you can do about it. And this makes sense if we agree with the starting place of our culture: the ultimate goal is to be in control, to own our lives, to do whatever we want/feel like/desire/think is best. “Submission” IS a bad thing IF you begin with the idea that each of us as an individual is and should be the boss of our own lives, and no one else should have the right to tell us anything.
But here is what makes us different as Christians: we start at a different place. In fact, our new lives begin when we submit to the Lordship of Jesus, when we recognize and admit and accept that we are not in control, that we are not the boss, that we are not the masters of our own destiny, and we invite Jesus to make us new, be our “Lord” and “Master”, and we yield control of our lives to God. If we really grasp this, and really practice this, it is radically counter-cultural. I’m afraid, though, that many of us (and I see this in myself also) remain rooted in our individualism and even spiritualize it – we only act and live out the things we agree with, feel, are impacted by, are “passionate” about, even in our spiritual lives; instead of the things that Scripture commands us. I offer as an example all of us who heard the message of repentance from two weeks ago, identified a relationship that was broken, and then did nothing about it.