Submit. Submission. Yield. These are not popular words in our culture. All three words have a negative connotation in the English language akin to giving up, loosing, or letting someone else have their way over ours.
And yet any study of the New Testament, and especially those books written by Paul, would show that submission and yielding are necessary and even desirable for a Christian. Could it be that what Paul is trying to tell us is that submission is actually a good thing? Could we, in this day and age, stand to learn what it means to be submissive in the context of God’s word? Let’s look at God’s word and see if we can get a clear answer.
In First Corinthians we find chapter eleven which discusses head coverings, appropriate length of hair and contains verse three which says “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God”. Sounds like trouble, right? Not necessarily.
The word “head” that Paul is using here could be more correctly translated as “origin” and in that context it makes more sense to English speakers. Woman was created by God out of one rib from Adam’s body. Christ was God put into flesh; literally the Son of God. But what about all of this in the context of submission? Hang on, we’re almost there!
Both of the Corinthian letters were written to the church at Corinth and contained some specific instructions for that church in that specific time. They still contain wisdom and truth that we can apply to our own lives but they must be read with some knowledge of what was taking place in Corinth at that time if we are to really understand what Paul was saying.
Long hair on a man in the Corinthian culture was one sign of a male prostitute. Likewise, short hair on a woman was one sign for a female prostitute. Sexual immorality was prevalent in Corinth and Paul’s desire was for the men and women of that church to completely and visibly separate themselves from any appearance of evil.
Although hairstyles on both men and women in our day and time carry no such suggestions of sexual promiscuity we would still do well to distance ourselves from the appearance of evil. People decide what they think about us long before they decide what they think of our message. We need to be careful that our appearance does not become a stumbling block for someone else.
In other words, sometimes we need to yield our right to do what we want to do out of love and spiritual concern for someone else.
It is our right to dress and style ourselves as we fit. However, it is always more important to let love dictate our behavior and attitude. This is where submission comes into play. Love yields, not out of weakness, but out of strength of character and concern for the other.
Jesus was our example in this. Throughout his horrible arrest, trial, torture, and execution he never fought back or exercised his power as God to stop what was happening to Him. He went to the cross willingly, out of love for us. He submitted his body to be broken for the greater good of victory over sin and death.
The submission of our will to Jesus Christ is also done with the greater good in mind. When we live in submission to God, He can then use us for His glory and for our benefit. The most blessed that we will ever be is when we are living in submission to the will of our Heavenly Father. And make no mistake, we will live in submission one way or another.
In the sixth chapter of Romans Paul addresses sin in the life of the believer. 16 Do you not know that to whom you yield yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
In three verses Paul shares a simple yet profound fact. The believer can only live one of two ways. Either we yield (submit) to flesh, to the old man and to sin or we yield (submit) ourselves to the Spirit and to obedience that leads to righteousness. There is no middle ground here.
Some of us think (and I did for a long while) that we can be for God, that we can approve of Him and His church and we’ll even attend once in awhile as long as He doesn’t try and muck around in our lives too much. We’re not practicing overt evil but neither do we want God intruding on our personal time and personal space beyond the minimum. We’re saved, so isn’t that enough?
Believer, please do not believe that lie. I know from experience that what Paul says in Romans chapter 6 is absolutely true. If we aren’t yielded to God then we are yielded to flesh and you know who owns and glorifies the flesh, right? Trying to pretend that we can get by as a Christian by not yielding to God is just making the evil one’s job that much easier. We are either submitting ourselves to our Father’s will or we aren’t; it’s just that simple.
So then, I believe we are ready to answer our original question. If we are submitted to God and His will then submission is a very good and necessary thing. While submitted to God’s will we gain the strength and love to yield our individual rights for the benefit of those around us, which was what Paul asked the Corinthian believers to do so many years ago.
As for the title of this piece; what is the attitude of the unoffended? Why love, of course.