Freedom In Submission, and Other Christian Non-Sense
For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters. The Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 7:22-23
We could spend A LOT of time talking about what Paul thinks and the context of this passage sandwiched between Paul’s admonishments for slaves to “remain in the condition in which [they] were called” (v. 19, also v.24). If you want to do that, come to Bible Study 2nd and 4th Tuesdays at 7pm. Instead, I would like to spend time on what it means to be in submission to Christ, what it means to declare that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior, and the eternal King. To call God sovereign and to place Jesus on the throne is radical, deeply counter-cultural, and fits beautifully into the American politic (except when it doesn’t).
You might say, wait a minute, the American ethos is all about freedom. You might think about the Constitution as a document largely structured around defining “rights” that the governing bodies are not to infringe upon. Within that framework, we are mostly talking about freedoms “from” something rather than freedoms “for” something. The United States, one could argue, was established to ensure freedom from tyranny in particular.
Looking around our country, it appears that current American anxiety is still rooted in the fear of tyranny. In Greek we might say both sides of the political divide are terrified of someone else katexousiazó “exercising authority downwards” (as in “…their great ones are tyrants over them”, Mark 10:24). “States’ rights” and “federal protection” are cries from opposite political positions that are both ultimately about preventing tyranny. So what will prevent tyranny? What will keep us free?
One of the prevailing logics of today is that the ability to exert power over others is what keeps one free, a logic that is obvious in foreign policy, law enforcement, corporate dynamics, and much of life in general. “Someone’s going to be in charge” we might say, and our responsibility is to make sure the people who will defend our rights are leading our people. This suggests that in fact submission to power is intrinsic, not antithetical, to our means of freedom. This leads me to ask, who’s power am I willing to submit myself to?
One of the core reasons I declare Jesus of Nazareth as my Christ, my Lord, and my personal Savior, is that I want to be crystal clear about what I am willing to submit to, and what I am not. Jesus’ commitment to recognizing the imago Dei in all people, to seeking the question behind the question, to looking for people’s values rather than their positions, that is what I choose to align with. When I declare that Jesus Christ is my Lord, I am declaring where I will submit my life. No earthly ruler, no system of government, no great idea, no political philosophy, nothing else is going to take that central place in my life. No rule beyond that which is the rule of Christ. No ruler but Him.
We know what God is all about. At our core, all of us know about the transformational power of love, the liberative power of reconciliation and forgiveness, and the deep truth of grace. If we choose to submit ourselves to these truths, we will find ourselves free from the opinions (judgments) of others, the “us vs. them” of partisan politics, and the twisting of love for our neighbor into the supremacy narrative of nationalism.
Any person who is going to lead me is going to be leading me towards Christ. If they aren't leading me towards Christ, they will not be leading me long. This might sound like I am giving another human God’s power; in reality is it requires me, personally, to be in submission to Christ already. I have to be able to discern whether someone is leading me towards Christ or not. I have to be connected to God enough that I will be able to see through charlatans and cheap talk. “You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16). Jesus promises us that we have the ability to discern the voice of God if we concentrate on how our lives grow, expand, and bear fruit.
Does this perspective on Jesus’ sovereignty make Jesus cosmically unique? Does it negate any other paths to real freedom? I don't know. What I do know is that I am submitting my life to Christ. What I do know is that I have seen enough to know that this is where my loyalty belongs. And anything that leads away from Christ will not be allowed to lead me.
In Peace and With Love,