I was talking to one of my dearest friends a few nights ago, and we were pondering some difficult situations in which we each know we have to submit to authority but are having a difficult time while doing so. With frustration, we reviewed lists and lists of reasons why the particular roles, positions, and scenarios we were pondering are so difficult, and frustration and anger kept building. I thought steam was going to burst from either (or both) sets of our ears at any time. Before parting, however, we confirmed - as in so many situations in our lives - no matter what is happening to me, I must do what I am biblically commanded by God to do. And, in each of these scenarios, I must find some way (the best way) to submit. I must submit.
I cannot adequately describe the sorrow I felt while leaving our meeting place. I was at a low point with my own reality, but I was even more concerned about my friend, wishing I could do something, anything, to ease such heartache. I couldn't. I knew the best "advice" I could offer was scriptural support for the conclusion we already knew: SUBMIT. But, in the long, rainy drive home, it gave me time to zero in on the lists we shouted out in infuriation. While idling at a stoplight, it hit me... hit me that the frustration and anger was really disguised discouragement and sorrow - not over having to submit to authority - but having to submit to authority who had neglected the important companion responsibility of protection.
There are many who refuse the roles that are set up in the bible. The women's liberation movement has probably provided some blessings, but most of its efforts have gone directly against the relationships that God designed for his children. "But, women submitting? Now that goes too far!!! Take a back seat to a man who doesn't care about my well-being? No way!!! Sit and follow the demands of an abusive husband? You've got to be kidding me with this bible stuff!!!" Anyone who feels this way just doesn't understand what God intended or commanded (still commands) us to be and do. Our roles are different, but we each have responsibilities that are essential to the plan. Husbands must love their wives, and wives must respect their husbands. These responsibilities are difficult, may seem against our nature, may make us want to pull out our hair at times... but they are necessary and are provided directly to us in scripture. The problems come when individuals and institutions don't follow the rules for their roles.
"My wife won't submit. Women are too headstrong. They don't know how to follow authority! I can't carry out my responsibilities if she can't respect me enough to carry out hers." I hear the cries from godly men in their blogs, newspaper articles, radio shows, discussions, and even in their actions. In fact, I even hear it from men who are not striving to be Christ-like. We should not be blind to the fact that God did put men in most of the positions that he created as an authority. But, let us please understand that this struggle isn't exclusive to the relationship that God created between husband and wife.
In my recent studies, I have tried to discover the roles which God gave authority. And, in each of these roles, in addition to leading, making decisions, and standing responsible, I have found several verses which also command the subject to provide protection to those over whom it has dominion. If you are a person in authority or are part of an institution that is in authority and you are struggling with the question, "Why won't so-and-so submit?", I respectfully ask you to reflect on the question, "Am I providing the protection that God has charged me to provide?"
Husbands: Are you providing the necessities within your role so that your wife may focus on the biblical examples that God has provided for her? Have you resolved conflicts or ended pressures that your wife may be feeling by trying to meet both God's and the world's expectations as a wife, mother, and woman? Are you stepping in to stop scenarios that may harm your spouse physically or emotionally? Does she see you as her defender? Do your decisions advance the walk in following Christ for both of you?
Fathers: Are you providing the necessities for your family? Have you equipped your family with biblical instruction so each member is able to turn to God's word to navigate through life? Have you taken great care to set boundaries through discipline, preventing harm in the future? Are you regularly defending your children - especially daughters - in scenarios in which they need support? Are you or your wife taking care of situations which adults should handle? Have you rid your home of influences which contradict God's teachings? Do your decisions advance the walk in following Christ for your entire family?
Supervisors: Are you concerned with development as much as you are concerned with output? Do you intervene to guide negotiations when employees are at odds? Do you show concern for the staff members that report to you by offering constructive feedback and coaching even when it might be uncomfortable? Are you recognized as a "follower of God" through your efforts of peace-making?
Churches: Do you provide a safe haven and place of rest away from the world? Are you committed to lovingly guiding weaker brothers and sisters for the cause of Christ even though it may cause short-term discomfort? Are you providing a shelter for young men who have been called into the ministry? Are members in constant prayer for one another and assisting when trials appear? Are members moved to keep focus on worship instead of viewing church as merely a body of rules, regulations and standards?
There are so many others that God has given authority (and the responsibility of protection) in certain situations: pastors, mothers, elder sisters in the church, elder brothers in the church, government leaders, individuals stronger in the faith...
And, there are many who are called to subjection (while provided protection): church members, children, younger sisters in the church, younger brothers in the church, citizens, individuals weaker in the faith...
My post here is about one-quarter the size of the original document I created last week... mostly a dumping of thoughts onto the page at the time. I've re-written it and re-written it, only to drastically cut most of it today. So, you will have to forgive me if some of this seems disjointed. I was finding myself censoring what I had written, for various reasons. And, I want to be cautious to do the right thing.
My imagination floats to what I think some will ask me... "Do you truly believe that speaking with someone at church or at work and rebuking them is some sort of protection? What kind of help is THAT? Wouldn't that be more harm than help? I reply, "Not when done in love, as God's Word instructs us." Yes, it seems our churches, our families, our pastors, our church members, and our society has fallen into the habit of thinking, "This isn't my business. I shouldn't get involved. I wouldn't want to hurt that individual's feelings..." (as if one's feelings is the most precious attribute at stake.) It is important, however, that we understand there is protection and a saving grace in following God's Word that should not be underestimated, and we have been given roles and responsibilities in labouring - again, in love - with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. We cannot allow our minds to kid ourselves... to think that we can pick and choose our responsibilities as if walking down the line of a smorgasboard - just as those in authority cannot pick and choose the other types of protection they are commanded to provide. We cannot fool ourselves in thinking there is a better way than the way God has provided or that we'll be just as blessed by following a different path. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking there is anything more important - even our "feelings!" - than following the divine scriptures left for us. I pray that each of us may more deeply study the scriptures to know exactly what is being asked of us in our roles, especially so that we may assist our brothers and sisters along the troublesome way of life.
And, especially to those on whom God has given authority, I humbly ask you to reflect on the question, "Am I providing the protection that God has charged me to provide?"
Will you join with me in identifying scriptures that refer to this responsibility of protection? Please feel free to identify to whom the scripture commands, over whom, and any other revelations you've found while studying. (And, please pray for me while I work on submitting in the way God would have me to do.)