Submitting - Biblical vs Secular View

It is a common joke that while Husband is the head wife is the neck that turn the head. Such contention is like due to that fact husbands will use 'Eph 5:22 wives submit to your husbands' to force a decision through against a disagreeing wife. This is actually a misunderstanding of the word 'submit' in the context of Ephesian Chapters 5. Eph 5:22 comes after Eph 5:21 'submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.' The key is "submitting to another" with Christ as the foundation stone. We must first submit to Christ and then we can submit to one another. The phase 'one another' points out the key difference of Biblical definition of "Submit" from the secular and common understanding.

Secular Worldly View
Submit is a relationship engagement involving two parties - leader and follower. The worldly view of submit is only one way - employee submit to the boss, student submit to teacher, citizen to the government. This worldly view on submission was spoken by Jesus in 'Mar 10:42 ...."You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.'. We have the typical hierarchical organization chart with Boss at the top and others serving the needs of the Boss. Submit is a one way street - The Boss gives command for his own interests and others are to follow without any questions. The organization exists to serve the owner or boss.

What happen when there are disagreements or dissatisfaction among the ranks? The typical approach is to use fear and threats to force obedience. In the workplace, a typical threat is "you either follow or be fired" or 'don't rock the boat' or 'don't create trouble'. One may run the risk of being labeled "a non team worker". In a church environment, you can find much preaching on 'Touch not God's Anointed 1Sam 24:11, 26:9' or Rebel of Aaron & Miriam against Moses or Rebel of Korah Num 16:1-50 to shut off any feedback or suggestions and force agreement under name of unity. These are not the proper actions of a good leader. Have it ever occurred to the leaders that the members' behavior are precisely the result of the leaders bad actions and the solution lies with leaders taking corrective actions rather than beating them to submission. Let's see what the Biblical view is.

Biblical View
The Biblical view of submission, as mentioned above in Eph 5:21, is a two way flow of submitting to one another. This Biblical Leadership model is exemplified and expounded by Jesus as the "Servant Leadership Model" - 'Mar 10:43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,'.

The two way flow is as follows:
Leader thinks for the good of the community and cares for all its members with the followers willingly obey the leading because of trust (knowing that their leaders will do things that are best for the community).

It is clear to us that "Submit" is about "submitting one to another". It is not a unilaterally decision but a collaborative action. Paul uses a pair-of-roles to illustrate in Eph 5:22 to Eph 6:10.

The purpose of 'submitting to one another' is for the benefits of both parties and of the union and thereby reflecting the glory of God. Eph 5:21 is part of the will of God as stated in Eph 5:17. Eph 5:18-20 are the other parts of the will of God. Chapters of Eph 5-6 is the execution of Eph 5:1 be imitators of God.

Submitting in Husband-Wife Relationship
Wife Summits as Husband Loves for the good of each other & the union of one-flesh. Summit & Love comes together. Without love, there is no willing submission and the whole suffers. True love involves submission as Jesus said "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Joh 14:15.

Submitting in Parent-Children Relationship
Children obey parents as Parents develop children. Both benefits from the growth of each other & the union (family). Discipline was the word used. But a better word would be coaching & development of the child to be a better person - able to make decisions and be responsible. Note this Paul specially added v4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, to caution against the over bearing and controlling parent. See Similar Verses in Bible and Chinese Classics 10 on Filial Piety for how parents provoke children to wrath.

Submitting in Boss-Staff Relationship
Staff obey Bosses with sincere heart (not for show) as Boss leads without threats as both serve Christ for the company's interests and each other interests and thereby glorify God. The biblical organization chart is an inverted pyramid. The boss serve the staff to serve the customers. This management concept is well known. Yet the church seems to be copying the old bureaucratic concept rejected by modern management to hoping to create mega-church and forgoing its biblical concept servant leadership.

Be Grateful for Disagreements
When there are disagreements and dissatisfaction in the organization, one should not be alarmed but rather be happy. This is because as situation changes (frequently nowadays), different people have different views of situation. They will be coming out with different solutions to handle the changes and thereby create disagreements. These differences are to be welcomed and not stopped because there in usually lies the best solutions to handle the change.

Watch-out for Egos
People's ego could be a main cause of disagreement and we should watch for it. Egos make an issue into a 'for-me' or 'against-me' debates . It will distorts the facts and create much strife and confusion. Paul warned us in 1 Cor 3 not to get into a childish and fleshly egos fight of for-who but to recognize the different roles that each of us play and then together, submitting one to another, build up the body of Christ.

It Starts with the Leaders Extending Love and Understanding
Leaders should be the one taking the initiative first to solve the problem. Leaders have the position and power to make change. Love/Respects begets love/respects. If one suffers the lack of respect of others, we may need to ask ourselves first whether we extend the respects. As leaders, God demands us to do more.

Leaders Responsibilities are:
  1. take responsibility for developing a compelling vision for the benefits of the union.
  2. invert the pyramid and move to the bottom as cheerleaders, supporters, and encouragers.
  3. Initiate and reach-out to the followers and not to resort to threat Eph 6:9
  4. Should self examined - am I the cause of the problem? Mat 7:3 Do I have the log in my eye? Is it because my ego is hurt ? Am I only seeking my own self-interest?
  5. Is the vision right? Are the plans right?
  6. Is the communication clear ? The benefits and the methods and the changes that may affect others. Are those badly affected been taken care of?
  7. Did I help to create trust or sow distrust?
Followers Responsibilities Are:
  1. Is it the right thing to do?
  2. Is my Communication clear? purpose, methods, concerns
  3. Lack of Trust?
  4. Have considered the interests of the Union?
  5. Have seen things from the Leader's viewpoint?
When we are not happy about others - spouse, family members, workplace colleagues not agreeing with us, we should really reflect first whether we have looked after their interests. Did we go for a win-win for the members and the group rather than just our own convenience and interest. The golden rule of 'Love' established by Christ will always work. Extends love first instead of threats.

Additional Insight posted on 14 Oct 2009
The Way of Submission is Key
How does submission takes place is the crux of the issue. Husband abusing by threats or force to get wife's submission is wrong. We can argue from the two-way view of Biblical submission - using threat to force submission breaks one of the 2 way and is not submitting one-to-another. Submission is bonded by the Biblical values of truth, justice and love.

Update 12 March 2011
The Ancient Chinese Classics has a word for such 'submitting to one another' in building good and harmonious relationships. The word is 孝 Xiao, 'Filial Piety'. The true meaning is love and respect. The Elder loves the Younger and the Younger respect the Elder. Because the Younger know and trust the love of the Elder, the Younger will obey the leading and teaching of the Elder.  see The Bible of Filial Piety (Xiao Jing)  for more details.

Update 30 May 2011
Submitting is about putting the other person first. Taking care of their interests above ours. It is a more specific way of showing what love is. On this foundation of love, shown by putting others interest above ours, we then have wife to submit to husband and husband to love wife as Christ loves His church. It shows the difference in husband and wife. Wife is to give husband respect and husband is to give wife tenderness and security. This mutual submitting is to be extended to relationship between parents and children, bosses and employees, government and citizens. The exact form of submitting or love is role-dependent.

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