Monday, December 13, 2010

Submitting to Authority

On Sunday, our pastor spoke on a few verses at the beginning of Titus chapter 3. We've been going through Titus for quite a while now -- what an incredible book full of practical, REAL wisdom. But I have to say that I felt very convicted about these verses more than any others so far:

 Titus 3:1-2 " submissive to rulers and ready for every good work...speak evil of no one...avoid perfect courtesy toward all people."

There it is, unequivocal, that chafing s-word: be SUBMISSIVE to rulers and authorities. The book of Titus is full of commands to be submissive: wives to husbands, slaves to masters. The word for submission in regards to political leaders is no different than the one used by Titus for marriage and social institutions. Which got me thinking...

I haven't been married very long, but I've heard the words "submit to your husband" more than I've heard "marriage is a blessing." (No joke. Sad.) I believe submission is something real, that needs to be practiced. But (we're still newlyweds, okay?) we don't really disagree on stuff. Like almost ever. So, when we're living in harmonious bliss, does that mean submission is nonexistent? It only occurs during disagreement and then goes away?  I think not. That would make it a negative thing, not a force for good! Rather I believe submission is more than gritting my teeth and letting a stubborn hubby have his way. It's also more than bland lazy deference, the doormat syndrome for which many believing women are (justly) maligned by society. No, it's an attitude, a lifestyle, a way of thinking and living that simply respects and honors those above me. I may speak my mind, I may discuss and think, but ultimately I'm under someone else. This kind of submission is a positive force, continuously flowing whether Justin and I are in harmony or disagreement. A forced submission that only rears its head during tension can only be a negative, frustrated, finger-pointing beast. No wonder the world isn't too impressed.

Even if my hubby makes decisions I don't approve of or appreciate, those are still his decisions to make. My role isn't to sit there and seethe at him. It's not to begrudgingly drag my feet, shooting snark and sarcasm. And it's not to woefully bemoan my situation and make a plaintive martyr of myself. It's to respect the institution of marriage because God set it up, and that includes continually -- whether or not we're in disagreement -- honoring Justin and respecting his authority. (After all, it wasn't Justin's idea either.)

Now...apply that line of thought to the government. Here's a telling exercise. Choose someone that just irks you to no end, imagine them as President, and put their name in the paragraph above: "Even if Glenn Beck makes decisions I don't approve of or appreciate, they are still his decisions to make. My role isn't to sit there and seethe at him. It's not to begrudgingly drag my feet, shooting snark and sarcasm. And it's not to woefully bemoan my situation and make a plaintive martyr of myself. It's to respect the institution of government because God set it up, and that includes continually -- whether or not we're in disagreement -- honoring Glenn Beck and respecting his authority."  See? It's downright painful! I could hardly bring myself to type that! Look how wired we are NOT to think this way!

I have NEVER heard anyone, myself and any Christians included, say "I don't approve of all the laws and decisions the government makes for me, and I'm pretty taxed-out, but God has put them all in place, and I respect that, so whether or not the current laws or the current President respect God, I'm going to honor the institution of government itself, which includes those laws and President, because of its God-given authority."


Sadly, I can see in my own heart a little streak of anarchy - "Who cares if the city ordinance says I can have only two chickens, dangit...they don't regulate dogs or cats or snakes...I'll be getting five or six chickens, so there!" That's an example of a bad attitude, pure and simple. Submission isn't trying to sneak around the rules; it's not going 40 in a 35 because no cop will pull me over for such a minor infraction; it's not making fun of the Governor of Alaska whenever her name comes up. What else does that Titus passage say? "speak evil of no one...avoid perfect courtesy toward all people." Again, in my pastor's words yesterday...WOW. Especially if these commands are seen in their proper context: of relationship to our government. Don't trash talk politicians or presidents or mayors or senators. Don't argue about it. Be kind and respectful. And show perfect courtesy towards all...ALL...ALL people! Politicians included!?! Even Glenn Beck??!?! Talk about a high standard! I definitely do not measure up.

Somehow we have gotten the idea that political issues give us a free rein to be angry, whiny, mean, rude, grumpy, complaining, selfish, know-it-all, obstinate, stubborn, offensive, condescending, bitter irrational jerks.

In my mind, this Titus passage also helps cement my conviction that the "Founding Fathers" were not acting biblically when they rebelled against their government and started a bloody war. (Which is SO shocking because I thought those Founding Fathers were a little band of nice Christian men who only wanted to do Bible studies in peace!) In addition to the Titus verses I quoted above, there's also this passage in Romans 12:1-2, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." The point here is that political leaders are God's agents. Thinking about defiantly unbiblical leaders, I don't know how that works exactly, but whether the leaders themselves understand that or not, God put them there. Kind of a divine irony. When we act out against them -- whether it's getting all our rebel friends together and running off to start our own country, or just bad-mouthing the president's latest decision while we're hanging out with friends -- we're acting out against God's very intentions and purposes.  Submission is a lifestyle that must be practiced by all believers.  I'll probably get skewered for saying this, but if the "Founding Fathers" were really Christians, or at least actually behaving like it, they never would've done what they did.  There, I said it.

"I pay taxes and I can COMPLAIN!"  I've heard that more times than I care to remember. Besides how it sounds like an angry old man with crusty overalls and a rifle, that's not submission. And simply doing what I'm told, especially when I have no choice, means very little. Gritting my teeth through my husband's decisions doesn't make me submissive.

What is my real attitude behind the actions? That's where reality is found. Jesus was constantly peeling away the layers of superficial behavior, exposing the most profound of motives and hearts and attitudes. The bottom line is that I am very convicted that I need to work on this area in my life. (As an example of how ingrained this is, I wrote probably a dozen snarky comments about politics/television/history throughout this blog, only to realize my bad habit over and over again each time I deleted them.)

I could get into a thousand disclaimers, caveats, and apparent exceptions. But what do you think?


  1. very well said Nikki. :) i think people forget that God didn't give any disclaimers on submission. i'm not only supposed to submit to my husband if he's an upstanding guy, but regardless of what my husband is, submission is between me and God. and attitude it key.

  2. Exactly. I hate when others accuse women who submit of being trodden on idiots. I know I'm not an idiot, and if submission is such a bad thing, why do we have such a wonderful marriage, happy child, and peaceful home? I heard a blurb on the radio a couple weeks ago about how studies have now shown that when the typical male/female roles get reversed (working moms and stay at home dads), family life is worse and the divorce rate skyrockets. Funny how science can not get away from what God has instituted from the beginning. I'm thankful to submit to my husband, therefore honoring God, and reap the rewards of a beautiful life from it!