The principle of submission is often misunderstood and vilified as a sign of being weak. Often, people that are excessive show intolerance and contempt for those who are obedient. What is it about submission that stirs up antagonism from those who break the law? And why do we often lack patience for those who are more limited than ourselves?

You will not understand submission until you understand that Jesus’ life was a total act of surrender. He gave all for the sake of love. You cannot fathom the goodness of Good Friday until you see it as an example of revolutionary love.

Richard Foster said,

Leadership is found in becoming the servant of all. Power is discovered in submission. The foremost symbol of this radical servant-hood is the cross… Christ not only died a “cross-death,” he lived a “cross-life.” [1]

Paul wrote the penultimate description of Christ’s surrendered cross-life to the church at Philippi.

Philippians 2:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Embedded in these verses we find the doctrine of Kenosis. By definition this Greek word is:  “the doctrine that Christ relinquished His divine attributes so as to experience human suffering.”[2]

As English translations have opened our understanding of Jesus’ nature, we find nuances of what this means in verse 7.

NIV – made himself nothing
KJV – made himself of no reputation
MSG - set aside the privileges of deity 
ASV – emptied himself

Jesus Christ chose to experience human limitation. While still possessing his Divine nature, he entered into a fully human experience. He gives us an example of how we ought to behave toward one another.

In submission we let go of our superiority. This is not an act of thinking poorly of self, but of loving others more fully. Martin Luther wrote on the balance between our authority and our submission.

“A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”[3]

What an amazing paradox! Jesus demonstrated and taught that we are made great when we submit ourselves to the limitations and needs of another.

[1] Richard Foster, Celebration Of Discipline, Harper Collins Publishers, p.115
[3] Martin Luther, Readings In The History Of Christian Theology, Westminster John Knox Press, p.13