“Submission is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way.” –Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline
The word submit conjures up images of doormats, of being run over, of second class citizens, and of being subordinate to a person in authority. We don’t like it. Submission is often thought of as only the role and responsibility of the wife. Men are quick to quote Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit to your own husbands” (Ephesians 5:22), while ignoring the verse before it. “Submitting to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Paul gave the word a distinctly Christian element. He defined submission in the sense of voluntary yielding in love. He did not mean the military use of the term: submission to authority is expected and can be commanded with the threat of punishment if obedience is not given.
This voluntary submissiveness was demonstrated by Jesus. In my regular Bible Reading a couple of weeks ago I came across a verse that I surely had read before, but somehow missed that daunting word—submission. “And he [Jesus] went down with them [Mary and Joseph] and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them [Mary and Joseph]” (Luke 2:51 ESV). That summary statement was made right after Jesus was left by his parents in Jerusalem when he was twelve years old. The way I understand that verse is that Jesus had been submissive to his parents up until this time and would continue to be submissive to his parents. He set the bar, established the standard, and provided the model for us to follow.
Mutual submission is not just for a wife to a husband, but a matter for everyone in the family. A family where mutual submission is valued and practiced is where everyone seeks the best for one another. Mutual submission to one another takes practice. Compromise happens. Everyone is willing to change.