I have been meeting together with a few friends of mine for the past few months and processing together what it means to be a follower of Jesus. We have all studied and prayed and fought through the resistance. We have all wanted to stop and quit, but most of us have persevered. In the end, we’re better for it.
Last night in our time together one of my very thoughtful friends asked about submission, a very central Christian discipline. She asked about the difference between submission and obedience, which I think is such a central question to me, personally.
As followers, we are called to be submissive ultimately to Jesus. Life on the elevator is all about following Jesus and not me. Submission is the central recognition of that truth and practically works out through me following Jesus in every area of life.
But there is a difference between obedience and submission. The difference is agreement. I obey when I agree that the request is good. I submit when I follow even though I don’t agree.
I’ll let you in on a little secret about me: I follow really well. I really don’t struggle with obedience; when I agree … it’s easy. However, when I don’t agree with Jesus, there’s something broken within me that fights against following.
I love the TV show “The Office” that stars Steve Carell as Michael Scott. Michael is an overbearing, arrogant, insensitive, and socially-awkward manager of a regional office products sales force. In one very hilarious show, Michael is confronted about his often over the top jokes and how offensive they are in an office environment. He debates back and forth with his manager and a lawyer and finally concludes “Agree to disagree.” He walks away unfazed and continues in his tasteless behavior.
So many times I find myself in a debate with Jesus. I know my inclination and know his mandate. I know that as Lord, I am supposed to give the authority to run my life over to Jesus. I know this in my head, but something fights against that. All too often my behavior declares: “Agree to disagree”, as I move on to do my own thing.
Submission is for moments when we normally would “agreed to disagree”.
As followers of Jesus we are called into places where we will not agree with Jesus, where our experience and our inclination will lead us distinctly away from the path He holds for our lives.
It is in those places where we are called to submit our wills, our hearts, and our lives to a Savior whose work liberates us from not just sin and death, but all too often, ourselves and our way.