Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority (1 Peter 2:13).
A few ways we can submit to earthly authorities include paying taxes, respecting leaders, obeying the rules, and praying for our government. We can submit to other authorities by being on time for work or putting forth our best on the job. In regard to our families, husbands and wives should submit to each other, just as children should listen to their parents.
Christ’s Call to Submission
Trevor DeVage, lead minister, Christ’s Church in Mason, Ohio, said for believers, the idea of submission is pretty clear. “At times we think we have the power to control certain things, but we actually don’t,” he said, “That’s been brought to light for me in the last couple of months. We have some good friends in the Mason area who lost their 10-year-old daughter, Sable, to the flu in February, and I’m watching as they’re submitting to authority. They don’t have to like it, and I don’t have to like it, but they are submitting to the authority that God has in their lives, and they’re having a massive impact on people. Sable’s parents, Scott and Holly Gibson, and her siblings started a foundation called Shine Like Sable (www.shinelikesable.org,) and nationwide, people have been impacted by this little girl’s life, because she lived like Jesus. Now, her parents are submitting to the power of Christ in the loss of their little girl.”
“I have another friend who has been at Children’s Hospital with their nine-year-old daughter. Ben Woods is a pastor in New Albany, Indiana. His daughter Calla had tumors on her brain. They have faced a lot of unknowns and brought in research teams from all over the country. In spite of all that, literally, there are thousands of people all over, and hundreds in the hospital, who have been impacted by this little girl’s life, and they are choosing submission to Christ over bitterness toward God,” he said.
Calla passed away in July. Even in the midst of the heartache and death, the family chose to honor God with their words, actions, and how they live.
Everyday Examples of Submission
“When you are not willing to submit to anything, everything becomes permissible,” DeVage said. “It’s not new. I think we as a church, think, ‘Oh, the church is in shambles and the culture is a wreck,’ but this has been going on since the fall.”
However, he said, we’re called back to the basic command to love our neighbor as ourselves (John 15:9-13). At times we want to love our neighbor as ourselves as long as they act just like we do, have the same belief systems we do, and raise their kids the same way we do. But God says to love your neighbor as yourself.
“If we’re truly going to love our enemies, then it comes down to showing them the authentic grace of Jesus. Then, he says, go and make disciples of all nations, and all people. We have a saying at Christ’s Church: ‘The Great Commission says go and make, not sit and take.’ The act of going and making something is a submissive act, and that’s submitting to the authority of Jesus, saying, ‘I’m going to do what you tell me to do.’ I think we complicate it, sometimes, but that to me is the simplicity of Scripture. If we are going to make disciples, that’s a submissive act, and it’s active. You have to go and do something,” DeVage said.
When it comes to our attitudes, (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) they should reflect humility, he said. We should be patient, gentle, kind, and not self-seeking. We should also have self-control and not be easily angered.
Submission Is Not Always Popular
Alex Eddy, minister, Little Miami Christian Church in Morrow, Ohio, echoed that submission is commanded in Scripture and is not merely a suggestion.
“The term submission isn’t popular in this day and age. Most of the focus is on relationship with God and relationship with Christ, but I think we sometimes overlook the master-servant relationship and think in terms of friends. But submission is important, and it’s important to God.”
The Bible tells us in humility to consider others better than ourselves, which can be a challenge. We are also commanded to submit ourselves to governing authorities because they have a divine purpose, he said.
“It’s one thing when someone follows our ideology, or our Christian worldview, but it gets a little more difficult when people disagree with us. For the Christian, there are other qualities, and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23) should override whatever sense of pessimism or negativity we might have,” Eddy said.
“I don’t always feel joyful when I have to pay my taxes or obey the speed limit, but I don’t want to face the consequences of not obeying. Those attitudes, and the fruit of the Spirit, should be evident in every area of our lives,” he said.
“There is a difference between what is legal and what is moral, and our highest standard and our highest authority is God. For the Christian, that’s the clearest line. It may be legal to do it, but it doesn’t mean that it’s God’s will that we do it,” Eddy said. “If there’s a contradiction there, the Christian must choose what’s moral over what’s legal.”
We should always present our stance with love and kindness (1 Peter 3:15) he said. That may not prevent us from drawing ridicule and criticism, but if we do things in the proper spirit, we honor God and it puts us in a better position to be accepted or received by other people.
“I try to present God’s Word with grace, love, and truth. That also has application to our conversations, but as to how to teach, we model it first with our lives, and then with our words,” Eddy said.
Live as Exemplary Citizens
Jim Estep, vice president of academics at Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, Missouri said it’s important to remember the context of the passage. “The church is under persecution when Peter is writing this, and he is saying, ‘Don’t give the authorities a legitimate reason to persecute us. If they are going to persecute us, it’s going to be for the cause of Christ, and because of Christ in us, and the fact that we are aliens in this world. We don’t belong here, but don’t go off and do something that is going to legitimize what they are doing, such as violating a crime, or doing violent acts, and doing things that Christians ought not do in the name of Jesus, because we feel like we’re under attack. Don’t resort to the world’s tactics, because then, we are giving them legitimate reason to persecute us,” Estep said.
Peter is talking about being a good citizen. If we’re exemplary citizens, then the police are going to view us favorably and teachers are going to want to have Christian students in their classroom. If we are known as peacemakers instead of troublemakers, then the civil authorities are going to want Christians present. Likewise, people are going to want a Christian police officer, a Christian judge, a Christian lawyer, or a Christian teacher because they seem to excel above and beyond, he said.
“Since Peter is writing after Paul, he’s echoing the same sentiment, where Paul says that God has set up the ruling authorities, and therefore, we should follow those authorities as God established them to provide order and sustain society and civilization. He’s not saying to do this blindly, but what he is saying is be a good citizen,” Estep said.
Ginny McCabe is a bestselling author, an award-winning journalist, media professional, speaker, and teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio. Connect with her at www.ginnymccabe.com and on Twitter @ginnymccabe.