“And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Ephesian 5:21

Here’s a difficult verse. At the very mention of the word “submission” people’s hackles start to rise. We ask ourselves did Paul really get this right. Did he really mean that we should submit to someone else in the church family, perhaps someone who might be younger or less experienced than us? Mutual submission is an important component in church unity, because it takes out the “it’s all about me” factor. Instead, selfishness is replaced by an appreciation that, regardless of how we perceive another person, we treat them with respect and courtesy, listening to what they have to say and considering it carefully. After all, what they say could be the Holy Spirit speaking through them. A poet called John Donne is reputed to have written, “No man is an island, entire of itself“. And that is particular true in our church communities – we individually don’t have all the knowledge and abilities required to build the church. Corrie Ten Boom once said (my paraphrase), “I can do things that you cannot, and you can do things that I cannot. But together we can do great things for God“. And that is really the essence of why we must submit to each other. The church model where the minister does everything and the congregation sit in the pews will never be able to build the church of Jesus Christ. As we submit to one another, different gifts and abilities come together and generate a powerful community. 

But there are two other phrases in the verse worth considering. The first is “one another”. This two word phrase crops up about 100 times in the New Testament, and almost always in a context of relationships. How we relate to each other in extremely important. Modern television presents a corrupted view of relationships, with fighting, verbal abuse, suspicion, manipulation, lies, slander, divorce, and gossip as the norm. But as God’s “one anothers” we know a better way. A way based on love and mutual submission. A way of looking out for one other, helping one another, praying for one another, being a true “one another” to our Christian brothers and sisters.

And then we have a second phrase in this verse that is very important. That is, we submit to one another “out of reverence for Christ“. We submit to one another because Jesus wants us to. That’s good enough for me.

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