There’s no denying that we are in a spiritual war. Our enemy is invisible and our weapons are unconventional. The Apostle’s arsenal included “the belt of truth…the breastplate of righteousness” and more. At ECS we’ve added to the list things like “weaponized laughter” and feasting. And really, any good gift from God becomes a weapon of our warfare when received with gratefulness.
If you want proof, consider the enemy’s perversion of God’s gifts to us. Food? Wine? Sex? Freedom of speech? Satan hates that stuff. He would have us fear food or (at least!) be gluttonous. He would have us abstain from alcohol because of its dangers when abused. He would have us commit sexual sins because doing so harms the image of God in us and because sex is meant to be fruitful, which he also hates. He would have us abuse our freedoms (including speech) to the injury of our neighbors. While we could go on, I want to focus for a moment on a weapon we rarely wield well: the weapon of submission.
Submission offers a formula for human peace, happiness, and flourishing. It is therefore well-positioned for abuse. Husbands abuse their wives; parents abuse their children; political leaders exploit those they’re supposed to serve and protect.
The abuse cuts the other direction, as well. Wives seek to manipulate and control faithful husbands; children seek to manipulate and control faithful parents; citizens subvert and undermine faithful leaders.
But what do we encounter when submission is the delightful norm for the faithful Christian? Well, I’ve already said it: peace, happiness, and flourishing.
A friend of mine once remarked that submission was a genius strategy to establish authority and responsibility among equals. Take marriage, for instance. Scripture nowhere argues that husbands are superior to wives, intellectually or otherwise. They generally have a different makeup and constitution, but it’s just that: different, not superior. Husbands and wives are equal in value, so how is a couple ever to make a decision? By identifying a responsible party who will give account for the outcome regardless of whose personality or voice is the strongest. And that party is the husband.
So even if a wife wants her husband to submit to her, he still bears responsibility for her before God. (I’ll let you read that again.) When a wife realizes this, she is then freed up to submit to her husband in the Lord. When the couple faces a tricky decision, she can say with appropriate respect, “[Husband’s name], you’ve gotten my input on this situation, and now I trust that you will do the right thing as God works through you to act in our best interests.” She can then support him even when disagreeing (provided, of course, that he’s not acting sinfully).
This extends to our children as well. I’ve had countless students unhappy in my office because they disobeyed. Quite literally, if they would have submitted to the direction of their teachers, they would have been happier than they were while paying me a visit. Such a child can say, “I don’t understand why you want me to [insert parental directive here], but I know that it pleases the Lord and everyone’s happier when I obey…especially me.” That’s idyllic, I know, and rather sophisticated for a child to use such language. But parents can help shepherd them that direction through cheerful and patient shepherding. This sort of weaponized submission can change the world.
To be sure, some objects of submission abdicate their authority, disqualify themselves, or otherwise don’t deserve our submission. But that too is an abuse. Christians must submit as far as we can, which is probably a lot further than we are submitting at present.
Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” That’s true. Tyrants pervert submission and they should be thwarted. But there are times when the way to thwart a tyrant is by…submission. A king who tyrannizes his subjects deserves what he gets. But part of the way a king comes to ruin may just be through his subjects’ faithful submission to God. It happened to Nebuchadnezzar, and it certainly can happen to parents and presidents. This sort of submission is active, deliberate, proactive.
That’s one way to weaponize submission. Another is through the conscious exhibition of cheerful submission as we refute worldly wisdom. A child who cheerfully submits to his parents may prompt the curiosity of the world. A wife who cheerfully submits to her husband may find a husband who is working to take responsibility…unto the flourishing of her whole family. A citizen who submits whenever possible to the king (i.e., as far as faithfulness to Christ will allow) may soon find influence with the king. When we wield the weapon of submission, we hack at the root of humanistic ambition; we put feet to the faith we proclaim…that death brings life, loss is gain, and happiness comes through self-denial. We model our Savior, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).
Though this is not a typical Raggant Standard “Letter from the U.H.”, I believe that we all need to be reminded that our kids (and students!) are learning from us. We are teaching them how to submit, and our actions are more effective teachers than our words. This is a principle we discuss frequently as a teaching staff, and we ought to do so as parents, as well. And just as we imitate Christ, may our children learn to wield this powerful weapon. And may grace cover the gap between our actions and our words…while we fight to close it.