Submission to authority is something I often think about. Like most teenagers, I spent my childhood rebelling against my parents’ authority. I saw submission to authority as losing myself, my will, and my right to make a decision or have emotion. I felt if I ever actually submitted to my parents, I would be giving up my personality, so I refused.
Years later, I came to realize this kind of submission, and any person who demands it, is not righteous or natural. We each ultimately submit to each other within the boundaries of our responsibility to God. He gave us personality, rules, judgments, callings, and guidance continually through to Holy Spirit. No relationship should have the authority to supersede that.
Obviously, our own opinions of what God has made us and called us to do are fallible, so we still need to let people counsel us. Our submission to people should never prevent us from submitting to God’s will.
But that’s the surface issue. The things that happen outside of our own minds are much easier to sort out. The more complex and challenging problem is trying to actually submit to God, who is worthy of total submission.
God is holy, worthy, all-knowing, and deserving of our obedience. Our freedom to have our own will is the result of his will allowing us to have freedom, for reasons I don’t think I will ever understand.
The analogy the Bible uses for this submission is that of body parts submitting to the head (Colossians 1: 18, Ephesians 5: 22-24). And to expound on that analogy of a body part submitting to the head, I want to make an analogy most of us will already be familiar with.
There are as many types of cancer as there are types of tissue in the body. All of them can become cancerous, and each type has its own deadly deviations. But what cancer is, no matter what kind of cell, is always the same.
The cell stops listening to the signals from the body that tell it how to operate, and instead, does whatever it wants.
It can’t change its nature, DNA, abilities, or needs. So it stays essentially the same as any other cell, but because it no longer listens to signals from the body, it gets in the way or takes over areas of the body, spreading its condition by multiplication.
And that’s it. That’s all it takes to kill you: One cell not listening to orders and continuing to multiply.
It never has to attack another cell, and it never has to do anything to infringe on another cell’s “rights.” All it has to do is ignore the orders of the body, and the body will eventually die.
Our walk with God as members of a body submitting to the authority of God is just the same. We don’t have to walk in active “sin and rebellion.” We don’t have to steal, kill, lie, cheat, fornicate, be prideful, hateful, unforgiving, bitter…We can be perfectly good little people, doing all the things we were designed to do, and carry out all normal functions. But if we don’t obey the guidance of the Head, we will still bring only death to the body. We will get in the way and take over areas of the body that were previously listening to the head.
I have seen many people who follow all of the rules never “sin,” and yet everywhere they go, there is disruption and disunity for one simple reason: They have their own opinion about what should happen in God’s kingdom.
We are not slaves, stripped of freedom or a will. We are given much freedom. But we are not the head, and we have no spiritual sight with which to see the path the Body must take. We need to remember it is not our Kingdom.
God always makes sure to talk to me about what I think. He is patient with me and leads me into truth, but his plan, will, and orders are so far beyond me and my tiny little slice of the world. I have no place to tell God, or anyone serving God, what they should do. Only God has that right.
This is why false prophets were stoned in the Old Testament. Because God’s will for His people is holy. Speaking falsehood instead brings death, in the same way cancer does.
It can be a very obvious or subtle thing in our lives, affecting our entire life or just portions. It boils down to this: We are not entitled to our own opinion. If we are allowed to live according to our own opinions, we will only bring death to the body, even if we do our absolute and selfless best to do what we knew to be right all the time.
We simply do not have the wisdom and knowledge of what is required of all the parts of the body to work together and accomplish God’s plan.
Learning to accept this, and live according to it, has been one of the primary challenges of my Christian walk. To trust God’s words, instructions, and limitations on me.
As I do, I am constantly astounded at how much freedom his instruction allows me and overwhelmed by his goodness and love in providing a life for me that is full of joy. I can see how easily this kind of authority is used by men to accomplish their own twisted ends, and abuse others.
As head of the body, God is worthy of our submission. He loves us as himself, as parts of his own body. We are safe in it, and in it we can find true fulfillment, true life, in the body.