“…he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Phil 2:8
The cross life is for all of us but it also presents us with one of the Lord’s most challenging teachings. His most radical social teaching was that the leader of others would be subordinate to them, he or she must be the servant of all. The cross life consists of your free acceptance of this servant role.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Eph 5:21
We all, at various points in our lives, expect others to subordinate themselves to us and when they don’t do so, we’re offended and even, disrespected. Our difficulty in submission is rooted in this expectation. To consistently and regularly submit to others is not a natural desire, it runs contrary to our self’s desire to gain our own way. Practicing the discipline of submission helps us transition into the cross life and trains our self to put the needs and desires of others in a superior position to our own.
To begin practicing the discipline of submission in the Spirit of Christ, that is to begin the cross life he has ordained for you, requires the first step of submitting to God. You must return to the Cross daily, whispering a prayer that yields body, mind, and soul to God’s purposes before your own. Thomas a’ Kempis left us a morning prayer to be utilized upon awakening; “As thou wilt; what thou wilt; when thou wilt.” This consistent first act of submission builds the strength in our knees to submit to others in a similar fashion. A similar prayer before the long darkness of night reminds the soul in subconsciousness to focus on subordination rather than swimming in dreams of dominance.
Remember that we practice the spiritual disciplines as a means to an end. In themselves they are nothing but soul strengthening exercises. In the case of submission, we seek a new orientation to world that will hopefully be emulated by those that surround us. Our guide in these exercises are the Scriptures. We submit to them. We submit to hearing the Word, to receiving the Word and obeying it. In this way our submission does not become a way to draw attention to ourselves. It becomes a demonstration of the truths of the Bible to a world desperately in need of such truths.
Let’s bend a knee together this morning as the sun lights the sky…
Last night as our family gathered to study the word we looked at one of my favorite passages of encouragement, Philippians 3. There are many verses that are especially meaningful in this passage but the two that really caught my attention last night were 3:13 – 14:
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
I am confronted by Paul’s model (and I’m sure I’m not alone) in forgetting what is behind, good or bad. Putting the past behind in return for the newly generated hope in what lies ahead should be an easy thing given the overwhelming greatness of our destination. A newly reborn heart that holds nothing but promise can be stubborn though. I don’t have a problem trading what I thought was really great about my life before Christ renewed me for a different but greater life now. My struggle lies in releasing old injuries, real or supposed, and moving forward.
Why is this such a challenge? Do we hang on to a grudge because we still lack sufficient faith to trust that God works all challenges for good? This might be a partial explanation. Some human notion of fairness pervades our lives and if we interpret an action to have wronged us, our hearts cry out for reprisal in some form. Our souls are turned inside out though and we being forgiven creations are to be forgiving creations. Do we hold on to hurts because it gives us an excuse for our own hurtful behavior? This could also be a remnant of our old being, something to be gotten rid of as we mature. The trouble is the difficulty in doing so.
Perhaps today, as the sun begins to brighten the eastern horizon, I can leave the past behind and commit fully to moving on towards the prize for which God redeemed me. I can only pray.
St. Paul reminds us of our appropriate attitude between ourselves and the world.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Phil 2:3-4)
Following closely in the shadow of our Lord we see over and over as He attends to others rather than himself, giving us the model for our own life of sacrifice.