Written by Kevin Haggarty
Power and position. It’s how the world works. Presidents, CEO’s, politicians, teachers, managers, pastors—leadership roles come with influence and power, and it’s a power that affects others, especially if it’s misused.
It’s also at the heart of most of our family problems. Dads have power. Moms have power. Children rebel against power because they feel powerless. Husbands and wives wrestle with power, or for control.
Unfortunately, like any other battlefield, family members are often casualties, innocent bystanders left with wounds that need tending but sometimes aren’t.
You know it’s true. Moms and Dads, think back to the last family squabble. Was it about a real issue, or was it about who was right? Or perhaps, more to the point, about who was loudest?
If that’s true of your family, you’re far from alone. If that’s true of your family, I have good news: it can be different.
Paul points to it in Ephesians 5:21-6:4. In the NIV translation it’s titled Instructions for Christian Households. I’m sure you’ve heard verse 22: “Wives submit to your husbands.” The men love this one—women, not so much.
However, the passage starts in verse 21. It says this: “Submit to one another, out of reverence to Christ.”
Did you catch that (especially men)? Submit to one another! Let’s call this the Principle of Mutual Submission. The term submit isn’t popular today. It generally means you are weaker than, or less than, or you lose.
Here, it refers to a humility that says, “I’m not more important than you, regardless of my role, or age, or stage in life.” It demonstrates that you live for something more than just yourself. It is often characterized by this question: “How can I help?”
Husbands and wives, hopefully you already use this question, but if you don’t, start today! Imagine what your relationship would be like if, instead of “What have you done for me lately?” you ask, “What can I do for you today?”
Parents, we are always looking for teachable moments; they are important. But what if, in a moment when your son or daughter is in crisis, you leaned in and said, “I know, this is a mess, what can I do to help?” Don’t be surprised when they tell you!
Children aren’t excluded from this either—and we are all somebody’s children. Obedience isn’t just “Do what you are told,” it’s more like, “Whose team are you on, yours or everybody else’s?”
What makes it hard is that we (or they) are not always worthy of being submitted to, right?
That’s why “in reverence to Christ” is so important. It’s the why. It’s a Jesus thing. Jesus submitted everything for us; He submitted His life for us. He gave up all the power, position, and privilege He had as the Son of God. He took on the role of a servant, all because He placed others above Himself.
For example, in John 13, Jesus gets down on his knees with a bowl of water and washes the sweat and grime off His disciples’ feet. What a beautiful picture of “It’s not about me.”
If we follow Jesus, letting go of power and serving others should be our goal.
I know, some of you are thinking: “But, the buck has to stop somewhere.” You are not wrong. It does.
The principle of mutual submission leads us to the practice of mutual decisions.
Husbands and wives, I really hope you make decisions together; it makes for a good team.
Parents, try engaging your children in big decisions. Ask their opinions. Submit your authority to them and bring them on the team. You may just see them doing the same when it comes time for their big decisions.
There will always be a time when people can’t agree, and someone has to make the call. So, do it; lovingly and humbly. It will minimize the angst.
Unconditional love allows us to submit to each other without fear. It tells the other person you are there for them.
It comes down to this. Do we have the courage to let go of our power and position to elevate the other members of our family above ourselves? Are we secure enough in our identity, rooted in Jesus, to let the “in-charge” become “in-service.”
Will we ask the question, “How can I help” and not be afraid of the answer?
I guess it all depends on who you think is more important.