Submission is, on the surface, a complicated word for many of us. I learned about submission in contexts where being submitted was a forceful thing. It meant blindly following authority, surrendering without joy, and seeing the self as unimportant.
And it is true — submission often involves a painful process of dying to self; it won’t always feel joyful. Yet, if we look at the very construction of the word, we find much to celebrate because submission points us to the life Christ lived out and the life He has joyfully invited us to.
The Latin prefix sub means “under,” “below,” “beneath.” The most basic definition of mission is an important assignment carried out through actions. From this breakdown, submission takes on a new meaning: to celebrate submission is to celebrate the carrying out of our important assignment of being under, below, beneath. I find this echoed in the following verses of Scripture:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition…Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage, rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:3-7)
Christ’s mission was to carry out the will of His Father, who so loved the world He sent His only Son to redeem it. Christ in His incarnation embraced the “sub-ness” of the human experience, submitted to it, and then valued humanity above himself — to carry out the mission of Love. In coming down, Christ carried out his mission faithfully and lifted us (from below, as a servant) up to peace, joy, hope, righteousness, new life.
We find that submission was never meant to be a harmful or even a self-deprecating action. Christ even redeems the term itself, and causes it to be a vehicle for hope, redemption, advocacy, and to give life.
Jesus then passes this submission, this assignment of loving the world from below, on to us in the Great Commission. He invites us to co-labor with Him, to carry out with Him the mission of Love throughout all of the nations.
Christ-like submission gives space for God’s Spirit to work through and among us. It has the power to change the world. Our desire is that this issue of The Cry would inspire all of us to consider the ways in which we can be more submitted to Jesus, to each other, and to those in vulnerable and oppressive circumstances. What could God do if we leaned in just a bit more into submission?
In the following pages, you’ll find a few possible answers to that question. Our Word Made Flesh folks around the world daily practice submission and do life with people who are experiencing extreme hardships. You’ll hear some of their stories and ways that God works faithfully through submission, bringing great rewards, new life, transformation, and re-ordering. You’ll be invited to submit to Love, and to further carry out submission in your own life.
May this issue of The Cry bring great hope to you. I pray that this would be a beautiful season of celebration, and that 2019 would be a wonderful new year for you.
Editor of The Cry