“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
It was late in the afternoon. I had stopped at the grocery store on the way home from the church to pick up some items Dianne needed to prepare dinner for our family. In line in front of me was a mother, well-dressed, probably a professional of some sort. With her were two children, each with something electronic in their hands. Each looking the image of bored affluence.
It was still early enough that a retired man was bagging groceries. It was late enough in his shift, however, that he was obviously tired; but still trying to conscientiously do his work. Mom observed his condition and so she said to her children, “Help the man with the groceries.”
The girl just rolled her eyes in noncompliance and the boy responded, “That’s his job” and went back to his video game.
Mom paused a moment and then said to the bagger, “Step away, sir. My kids will finish bagging those groceries.” I wanted to cheer this mother’s actions out loud. She knew pampered arrogance when she saw it and she was not going to let it take any deeper root in her kids.
On the essential doctrines of the New Testament in found in Ephesians 5:21. It is called mutual submission. It is found at a pivot point between teaching Jews and Gentiles to work together in the kingdom of God and specific instructions about dealing with our relationships in Christ-like ways. Unity does not come from agreeing to be agreeable or committing to working together for a common goal. The unity Paul describes goes much, much deeper.
In some translations submission is translated serve. The lesson is clear, the heart of God is a servant’s heart. And the motivation and measure for mutual submission is a direct outgrowth not from being agreeable or cooperative, but out of reverence for Christ. Mutual submission is a direct outgrowth of the work of Christ found in Philippians 2.1-11. “If we have any encouragement in Christ,” i.e., if what Christ has done for you makes any difference in your life “each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (verse 4). Our attitude should mirror that of Christ, “who being in the very nature God … made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant …” (verse 6).
Our sense of entitlement, to deserving service and feeling exempt from serving is a foundation for sin in human relationships. The corrective? “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”