Submit is a hard word in our every changing society but it should not be a hard word in the Church. In our society we are building our own little kingdom where we imagine ourselves king. We rule and only our opinion counts. It is all about independence, freedom and rights. The Kingdom of God is based on different principles than this and submission is part of it:
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)
Because we are raised in this society and we are influenced by it, we can find this to be a hard word even in the Church but we need to keep it in context in this passage.
Paul has just finished telling us to encourage each other and to promote the glory of God to each other. In love we have this duty to each other. We must lift each other up by lifting up Jesus. It is in this context that Paul then writes that, out of our love and respect for Jesus, we must tend to our duty to one another. We must give ourselves to each other, to give and receive from each other, to encourage and be encouraged.
When I become unbalanced and allow my flesh to cloud my judgement, when I feel low, discouraged or even overwhelmed at times, it is my wife who speaks encouraging words to me. Not ego stroking words of affirmation but instead words that remind me of God's glory. These are words that bring balance to my thinking and heart as I am reminded of Jesus, his promises and his sovereignty. I submit to my wife's duty to me. I accept her words and allow them to drive all darkness from my mind and heart. I yield to the Christ in her. It is not just my wife to whom I submit.
I am surrounded by people who encourage me in the Lord. As a pastor I need that as much as everyone else. People come a listen to my preaching and teaching. They submit to my God anointed wisdom and spiritual insights. They set aside their opinion, self centered thinking, and in an act of submission, accept from me what God is providing. They in turn do the same for me in many various ways, encouraging me, reminding me of the glory of our King. It is the duty we have to one another.
Here I insert a word of caution. We do not need to submit to another person's opinion. We do not to be stroked with words that fill us with selfish thinking: "you are intelligent, beautiful, talented". We do not need the world spoken into us but the glory of God. Our encouragement does not come from someone telling us we are beautiful but instead reminding us of the faithfulness of God. When I am low I do not need to hear that things will get better but instead that God is faithful to his children. When I hear God glorified I set aside my selfishness and cover myself in his glory, joining the chorus of praises that rises to our God all day long. By this I am strengthened and encouraged.
My friend, we have a duty to one another. We must take the time to encourage each other by glorifying God. We must also be willing to submit to one another, to set aside our selfish thoughts and be reminded of the glory of Jesus. In this way we will go all the way and overcome every mountain before us. Our life will be one of joy, peace and hope. Our hearts will overflow with love, adding to the praise of our God. Let us submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For this to happen we must be sure that we are not sharing our opinion or things of this world but instead the promises of God, lifting up Jesus, and speaking the Word to each other, allowing the Spirit to work through us. Make sure it is God you are glorifying and not the person to whom you are speaking. To God be the glory.