Some of my friends struggle with “Submit to each other” (Ephesians 5:21). So many people have been subjected to abuse, humiliation, and injustice that subjecting them to anything further feels like more grief.
Other friends find submission natural. God is the authority, with all authorities under him, so of course Christians must be submissive.
How do you feel about this command?
Would your reaction tell me how you vote? Maybe radicals want to change the world by overthrowing the current injustice instead of submitting to it, while conservatives like the stability that comes from submitting to the current authorities?
Funny how our gospel is shaped by our political agenda. For some, the gospel demands the restructure of society now. For others the gospel is more about getting everyone ready for the next world than changing this one. But the gospel refuses to conform to our politics. The gospel announces an alternative politic — a way of life based on Jesus’ leadership.
Christ is the alternative ruler, the king who changes all kingship. He’s in no hurry to overthrow the current rulers, and yet his kingdom is changing everything. It’s the mustard seed that grew to fill the garden and is now morphing into a tree that fills the world and shelters its creatures.
The trouble is that people submit to the powerful out of fear. That’s true in politics and economics, in communities and families, all the way down to the animal food chain and the pecking order of seagulls.
But this verse does not tell us to submit to powerful people out of fear of them:
Ephesians 5 21 Submit to one another in fear of Christ.
Christ is never terrorizing, though realizing his authority can be terrifying. He submitted himself to us — giving himself up for us (5:2). The king sets the paradigm for relationships in his kingdom, so we submit to each other as he submitted himself to us (5:24). We love each other as he loved us. We give ourselves up for each other as he gave himself up for us (5:25).
Mutual submission is a new and challenging way of life. It’s counter-intuitive in a world where the goal of life often is to dominate each other. That’s the point!
This is the hope of the world. Placing ourselves under each other in fear of Christ is how we introduce the kingdom of God lifestyle to the earth.
- Fear of Christ? (Eph. 5:21)