A life in submission.
I am a Christian and I have been set free from all chains, right? I get to be free and do whatever I want to, don't I? Isn't that what Jesus died for?
There is truth in all of these, but there is one thing missing. Yes, Jesus has set you free from all chains of death and has given you an eternity of him in heaven if you have chosen to follow him. Yes, God created you to be free and to be able to choose what you want to do, with even more freedom in Jesus. And yes, Jesus died so that we could experience eternity with him and he sent the Spirit so that we could experience him all of our days here.
The one thing that is missing in our calling as Christians? Discipleship.
Matthew 28:18-20 says, "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore (followers of me), go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Jesus' yoke and teachings). And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the ages.'"
Jesus desires something deeper in our lives, that exists despite our calling, gender, socio-economic class and race. He calls us to look like him and to help people look like him, an idea that just doesn't make sense in our western, 21st century context. Something that needs to be instilled in our lives is echoed in Dietrich Bonhoeffer's work, The Cost of Discipleship, and it goes likes this, "Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ."
Discipleship means adherence to Christ, and, because Christ is the object of that adherence, it must take the form of discipleship. An abstract Christology, a doctrinal system, a general religious knowledge on the subject of grace or on forgiveness of sins, render discipleship superfluous (unnecessary), and in fact they positively exclude any idea of discipleship whatever, and are essentially inimical (detached) to the whole conception of following Christ. With an abstract idea it is possible to enter into a relation of formal knowledge, to become enthusiastic about it, and perhaps even to put it into practice; but it can never be followed in personal obedience (hint hint). Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. It remains an abstract idea, a myth that has a place for the Fatherhood of God, but omits Christ as the living Son. A Christianity of that kind is nothing more or less than the end of discipleship. (Bonhoeffer, 64-65).
There is a Christianity that exists almost strictly in the mind. This can exist and it can result in you knowing about Jesus, even to an extreme cultural depth, and it could be a list of rules to which you adhere. However, there is a Christianity that fosters discipleship, in which you can taste love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. There is a type of Christianity that allows you to experience the goodness of life through submission.
I remember, when I was younger and much more filled with arrogance, I was rebuked from a mentor and after it was asked to pursue a quiet life with Jesus.
Obviously he didn't know the calling on my life, so I snapped back at him and told him that God's plan for my life was tremendous and loud and full of energy and the Spirit and he simply was speaking about his own life and projecting on me.
Idiot (finger pointing at myself).
And to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you. (1 Thessalonians 4:11)
Why would Paul, the man who made one of the biggest impacts in spreading the word and penning most of the New Testament, say that to the church in Thessalonica? I will get into the cultural context of this in a later blog, but here is how to this topic. It's because discipleship and looking like Jesus is rooted in submission. Submitting to a life that might not look like yours, but a life of silence and solitude, a life of Sabbath, a life of simplicity, and a life of slowness. A life that bears the fruit of the Spirit and helps you look a lot less like the world around us. A life the emulates the life of the first century Rabbi, our Christ.
It might be worth mentioning the preposition in was very intentional, regarding the title of this post. It could've been the word of but that wouldn't have summed up of the nature of submission. Submission is indwelling, it's not a suit you put on. Just like all great spiritual principles, specifically with regard to discipleship, submitting is something that begins inside and flows out. Jesus was in ultimate submission to the Father and the Spirit, which allowed it to flow outward into his life: Submitting to his disciples in washing their feet (John 13), submitting to the new crowds after a long day and having mercy on them to feed and teach them (Matthew 14), submitting to the Father in his crucifixion (Matthew 26).
He was in submission, as it was in him.
A deep, hidden truth of God is the endless power held in submission. Oxford Dictionary definition of submission is: the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person. In submission to God, you are submitting to his good, pleasing and perfect will. In accepting and yielding to this will, you accept his light and easy yoke. It makes it easier to love God with everything, and to love all people as yourself. You find yourself on the coattails of the Rabbi, breathing in the alabaster fumes that prepared him to ultimately resurrect. You experience the world through his lens of gratitude and humility. It releases your heart from the weights of hurry and pride. You can finally slow down, and experience Jesus in your day. Submit your time, your days, your pride, your emotions, your life and you will be met in the middle of it all.
A life in submission to Jesus is a life of discipleship. A life in submission to Jesus is a life filled with good fruit. A life in submission is a life filled with silence and solitude, Sabbath, simplicity and slowness. It is quiet. It is humble. It is grateful. It will change you and it will change everything around you.
1. Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. 2015. The Cost of Discipleship. London: SCM Press.