Text: Ephesians 5:21

“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.”

© 2011 by Stephen L Dunn
This post first appeared May 3, 2011 on one of
my other blogs THRIVING IN CHRIST


The Two Kinds of People in Your Church


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

In Heart 2 Heart, my church’s support/recovery group ministry, we often use a mountain-climbing metaphor to describe the role our facilitators play.  In that ministry, we have support groups for many different kinds of issues and pains, ranging from divorce to grief to various forms of addiction, etc.  One of our requirements for our facilitators is that he/she must have actually come through a particular pain or issue in order to be a group leader for that issue.  Simply put, he/she must have experienced the “God of all comfort” in that respect in order to, in turn, comfort others by helping escort them down their own road to recovery.

If you think about it, it just makes sense.  As you are climbing that mountain, you can listen to the guy on the ground below you who has never been up that mountain or you can listen to the guy above you who has just come up that same climb.  Who would you choose?

God’s community is set up that same way.  There are seasons in our lives when we need more help than usual with a particular spiritual step, and there are seasons when we make ourselves available to others in a sacrificial way.  Often, those seasons even overlap and we find ourselves in both positions simultaneously.  In the support group arena, it is always a significant moment in the recovery journey when a person stops focusing inwardly and begins to ask how he/she can turn outward and begin to help others on this same journey.

So what does this all mean for you and for your church?  On any given Sunday morning, at your local church, you will find two kinds of people…(1) people who are there to be fed and ministered to, and (2) people who are there to minister to others.  You may have found that you are capable of being in either group, depending on the season in your life.  I certainly have found myself in each group at one time or another.

I believe that your balance between the two (i.e., the time spent outwardly focused versus the time spent inwardly focused) is a function of spiritual maturity.  For those of us who have had to climb a few mountains, if we have learned anything at all from those experiences and if we have been the recipient of God’s grace and comfort through those times, we should be outwardly focused and helping others who are going through the same “stuff”.  We should be.  That is the script God wrote.

So, the question is this: when your church gathers this coming Sunday, which group will you be in?

© Blake Coffee
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