A Radically Different Vision of CommunityDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
In yesterday’s reflection, I explained how the imperative “Submit to one another” might be disturbing to us, even as it was almost certainly disturbing to those who first encountered it in Ephesians. People who lived in the Greco-Roman world were completely familiar with submission. The whole society with its rigid hierarchies was built on the notion that lesser, weaker, poorer, younger, and (usually) female people should submit to those who wield authority over them.
In the details of the household code in Ephesians, there will be instructions for wives to submit to husbands, for children to obey parents, and for slaves to obey masters. We’ll reflect on these as we progress prayerfully through the text. But, now, we need to pause and take in the wonder of Paul’s “topic sentence,” if you will. He begins his discussion of family life and frames the whole conversation with the simple imperative “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
This simple injunction reveals a radically different vision of community than anything that would have been known in the first century A.D. It also differs from the way most of us think about our relationships and institutions. Whatever it means to submit to one another or to subordinate ourselves to each other, this is not something we do or aspire to do. Many of us want to get ahead, to be in charge, to lead, to command. We don’t want to submit. Others of us take for granted that we’ll always be under the thumb of “the Man.” We can’t imagine a community of genuine mutual submission where all members are committed to subordinating themselves to one another.
Yet this is precisely the vision revealed in Ephesians 5:21, as the over-arching principle that should guide all relationships in the body of Christ as well as the household. Next week, we will dig more deeply into the exact nature of the submission featured in this passage. For now, I’d like you to think about what kind of community it would be if governed by a shared commitment to mutual submission. The following questions might help.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What would a community look like if all the members were committed to submit to each other? What would leadership be like in such a community? How would it feel to be a member of this community? Have you ever experienced anything like this in your life? Why do you think Paul begins his discussion of the household with a call to mutual submission?
PRAYER: Gracious God, I am fascinated by the way Paul begins his discussion of household relationships. Mutual submission intrigues me. I wonder what it means, really. I wonder what it looks like in practice. Help me to learn what Paul meant … and what you mean to say to your people today. Give me a new vision of life in the community of your people, life shaped by a commitment to shared subordination. Amen.
We have asked some members of our community to share their holy routines. At first glance, these routines may not seem holy at all. However, in this series, Holy Routines, our writers extend an invitation to you to walk beside them in the actions and interactions and spaces that often seem ordinary but also usher them into the presence of God. We hope that spending a few moments in the holy routines of a few friends will inspire you to see and meet God in daily moments you may be tempted to rush through, or where you feel tempted to overlook the presence of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this series will give you permission to savor the sacred in the ordinary moments of your day.