Submission to the Church
Written By Tim Spanburg
Our happiness is not dependent on getting what we want.
It is hard to imagine a more objectionable statement to our modern ears. Isn’t the definition of happiness getting what I want?
The answer to that question for many is a self-evident yes, but not to those who have taken up life with a church. The only way to experience the power, the community, the family of a local church, is to join the church with the expectation that my happiness in this place, with these people, is in no way dependent on getting what I want.
Let me explain.
In Ephesians 5:18-20, Paul commands Christians to be filled with the Spirit. Immediately, he starts giving a list of phrases that explain how we are to be filled with the Spirit (i.e. addressing one another in psalms, giving thanks always). Paul ends the list of his vision of the Spirit-led life by saying Spirit-led people are marked by “…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)
Submission to the church is a key marker of a Spirit-led life.
This can (and has) been abused, so what does Paul mean? What is submission to the church all about?
Submission to the church means every person in the church community has the spirit or attitude of my life for you. This is the exact opposite of how community is formulated in our modern world. Most communities form around the idea your life for me. I am willing to come here as long as you have something I like, I need, I want. We gather community around a common cause, hobby, passion, and as long as the community meets our needs, then we can be happy and stay.
The church, through our submission to one another, is to operate with the opposite spirit. We walk with one another …with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2)
This seems constrictive and limiting because it is. In the self-imposed limits of humility, gentleness, patience and submission, a new type of humanity, a new type of community is created. A community where my needs are met because I am surrounded by people who look at me and say my life for you. Then it becomes my joy to return the favor.
Week 7 of 8 Submission
Since the first human being was called to work and keep God’s creation, we have created tools to empower fruitful work. The same is true in our spiritual pursuit of prayer. The Psalms have been the refined tools of prayer for God’s people for millennia.
Though some practices of prayer are lacking or misunderstood in certain circles, we want to lean into them for our focus on the discipline of prayer. One such practice is imaginative prayer. Ignatius of Loyala (1491-1556) called this contemplation. Ignatius was convinced that God can speak to us by the power of the Spirit as surely through our imaginative efforts in Scripture as through our thoughts and memories of Scripture.
The disciplines are practices that the Spirit of God often uses to do His work of shaping us to be more like Jesus. In light of the sharpening article from Tuesday, practice the discipline of prayer in this way today.