Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mysteries of submission

God works in mysterious ways. People say so when something pleasing happens unexpectedly, yet choke on positive words when suffering. Do we grasp the fact that His thoughts are not our thoughts? Does anyone really understand the mysteries of God?

Several times in the past few weeks I’ve talked with women who do not like the biblical commands about submission. In their minds, all this will do is cause them suffering and hardship. I’ve fought these commands too, but also found that obedience is a blessing. God gives them to protect me from my selfish and sinful self. I’ve even used the definition of submission as “being set free from the tyranny of always needing to have my own way.”

However, as my devotional reading focus on the purpose of suffering and the response God wants to it, I’m beginning to see something else about submission.

Jesus didn’t want to suffer. He prayed in the garden, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” He knew what was coming. The “cup” refers to the wrath of God, and He knew it was going to be poured out on Him and that He was about to bear God’s punishment for the sins of the whole world.

He then said, “Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done.” Jesus submitted to certain pain and a terrible and unjust crucifixion, not because He wanted to but because He was determined to obey His heavenly Father and determined to not sin by disobeying. As His enemies put Him on the cross, and as He submitted to their treatment of Him, He said,
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine... (Luke 23:34-36)
Injury and insults. It could not have been worse, yet those who mocked Him had no idea what was taking place. They thought they had stopped Him, but didn’t realize that God would not only bring back to life the One that they murdered, but also use His submission to death as the only means of salvation for their souls. In the mystery of God, the One who said yes to His plan and died because of it, became the One who lives forever and is able to redeem all who believe in Him.

We are told to follow the example of Jesus. How then can a woman know what God will do with her acts of submission? I think the same way as the people who mocked Jesus when I assume that submission even to death is the end of God’s plan. I think like a sinful human when I fear that my obedience will amount to nothing. What do I know about the mind of God?

God isn’t being mean when He tells me to do anything else. It isn’t mean of Him to ask that I love others, or pray, or give to the poor. All of His commands are good. They bring blessing to me and glory to His name. The commands also have purpose. How could anyone assume that God (or those He inspired to record His Word) is just flapping His jaw and picking on the female gender?

I’ve changed my thinking a bit about submission. Now I can see that it might not bring a blessing, at least not at first. People who obey God might suffer because of their obedience. Yet God used history’s greatest act of submission to suffering as His greatest expression of love for humanity. With what Jesus did, God offers redemption and life to sinners. The obedience of Jesus Christ changed human history forever.

Now, whenever I fear that submission will bring me stress, I can challenge that notion because of what Jesus did. I can ask myself, “What might God do with my obedience — even if I suffer for doing what He asks of me?”

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Note: this is not about submission to spousal abuse. It is about my attitude towards God's commands.

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