If you want to start a heated debate among a group of Christians, just bring up Paul’s admonition that wives should submit to their husbands. But that debate is a distraction from the bigger issue: All Christians must submit to Jesus.
Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer has convinced me that the number one reason so many of us are stuck in spiritual immaturity is that we commit to Christ rather than submit to Christ.
The difference is this: We may commit to bringing dinner rolls to the church social and have the best of intentions to provide them, even getting off work early in order to serve our locally famous, family-recipe yeast delicacy. But no one expects you to quit your job and spend all your savings in order to provide the rolls, let alone center your whole life on the rolls. In fact, people would think you were crazy.
Have we reduced following Jesus to a similar commitment? If we’re barely willing to adjust our schedules to serve Jesus, is there any hope we’ll adjust our whole lives?
Commitment still leaves us in control, deciding, according to our own agendas, when or where we’ll serve Jesus. Submission means we yield to the will of Christ and do what he tells us to do day in and day out, altering our lives in obedience to him and his Word.
Jesus makes it very plain that it is an either/or decision. We cannot live for Christ and live for ourselves. As Paul explains, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. This life that I live now, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me” (Galatians 2:20 TEV).
Bonhoeffer adds, “The life of discipleship can only be maintained so long as nothing is allowed to come between Christ and ourselves — neither the law, nor personal piety, nor even the world.” We cannot submit to Christ and still arrange things to suit ourselves; we cannot treat discipleship like a career we map out for ourselves, saying, “I’ll do this for Jesus after I get the kids through school and build my retirement fund.”
Paul suggests our submission to Christ should look like an Olympic athlete training for the games, sacrificing many things in order to focus on the one. We must see the Kingdom of Heaven like the man who finds hidden treasure in a field. He re-sorts all of his priorities because nothing is as important as buying the field. We must become like the shopkeeper who finds a rare pearl and realizes everything else he has pales in comparison, so he never looks back to the things that were once important (Matthew 13:44-50).
Where we have been loyal to many things, we must now be loyal to one thing: the person, Jesus Christ.
This article is excerpted from Breakfast with Bonhoeffer.