By, Isam Itson III
Ephesians 5:21 – Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Considering our relationships as members of our local churches, there are two summary statements in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. First, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to live as close family members, like members of one body, in spite of our social and cultural differences. This is a testimony of God’s supreme wisdom and power to every competing spiritual and human power. Second, we honor the depth of our union with God and each other in Jesus Christ by sacrificially submitting ourselves to each other out of reverence for Jesus Christ.
We submit to each other by honoring the fact that God has made us to be gifts to each other within our households and local congregations. As we grow in Christ together, we become a blessing to the people in our surrounding communities. This lifestyle is the heart of our confession of faith in Jesus Christ to the people around us.
Unfortunately, we are often afraid of our inherent weakness and vulnerability. Apart from God, we spend our lives making ourselves invulnerable to chaos and disaster. Our goal is joining the ranks of the strong and the able as we build lives impervious to social, financial, and material disruption. But God made us to live under his protection in light of our inherent weakness and vulnerability. This becomes our testimony of God’s strength, love, and power to the world.
When we see God and get to know God we learn to trust him and follow him in spite of our essential vulnerability. God teaches us to live as his agents of love, grace, wisdom, and faithfulness. God’s presence encourages us and keeps us from being overwhelmed by our fear of distress, disaster, and death.
Rich and poor, married and unmarried, parents and children, men and women, citizens and foreigners, are all privileged by God to help each other help other people in the name of Jesus. All followers of Jesus Christ are called to honor God’s love for each other, and for others, no matter how much it costs us in time, energy, attention, financial profit, or social standing.
When we follow Christ in this way we become the best friends, spouses, children, parents, and servants to one another in our churches, communities, and societies. God made all of us, male and female, rich and poor, and young and old, to cooperate and collaborate as responsible representatives of God’s unconditional loyalty, love, and faithfulness. Personal submission to this call glorifies God and shames his enemies.
This approach to life tells every self righteous human power structure that God is in charge, not them. In this regard our personal and communal devotion to righteousness, justice, and holiness in Jesus Christ is revolutionary within every nation, through all time, across the entire globe.
We submit our cultural expressions to the service of honoring God and his love for others revealed in Jesus Christ. Our cultural expressions serve the purposes of God. They do not prove our superiority in relationship to each other.
We do not call others to sacrificially devote themselves to the fulfillment of our purpose and values. We sacrificially devote ourselves to the fulfillment of God’s purpose and value for the life of others. And they do the same for us in submission to God within the body of Christ, the Church.
Identification with God in Christ is primarily about identification with the one who is in the position of legitimate, righteous authority. Jesus Christ defines our personal and social way of life, not our cultural heritage or social standing. We all help each other love God and bless others personally, closely, and enthusiastically.
The people who are served well and honored by the stars quo and society at large are called to humble themselves in the same way that Christ humbled himself. He set aside his rights and privileges as the eternal Son of God to embrace the shame and pain of the cross in service to us all. He took it upon himself at extreme personal cost to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. Now Jesus calls us and empowers us to do the same for others.
To the lowly and the social outcast, Christ raises us up to share in his sacrificially responsible exercise of his righteous authority. To rule and reign with him, in submission to him, and to the glory of God the Father. No matter our social standing, or lack thereof, God fills us with his Holy Spirit to use what he has already blessed us with to help each other help other people recognize their value to God and each other.
God loves us and enjoys us. Christ died for us. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live for God by honoring the depth of God’s love for each other. Our God given life in human society is rooted in our shared responsibility to meaningfully and purposefully honor God’s love for the people around us, to the glory of God.
Any other approach to life is inhumane and contrary to God’s wisdom and grace for us as human beings, male and female, made in his image, no matter where we come from or how much money we have.
1. How does the use of my time, energy, and money express an essential dependence upon God and interdependence among others, for my life and well being?
2. How am I nurturing deep, meaningful relationships among the people in my local church?
3. How do I regularly make myself available to work with my brothers and sisters in Christ, blessing people in our local community?