Submission & Obedience

Today I want to share an insight given to me by another woman of the gospel many years ago. It is the difference between “submission” and “obedience.” Being a dutifully submissive wife (and we by all means must be that), I always thought submission and obedience were the same thing. My husband and I were born and raised in a very conservative church setting where women were silent — except for singing and the training of children.

I can remember often hearing a frustrated friend say about a particular decision she did not agree with her husband and he was insisting upon pushing the point, “Well, I’ll be submissive to it, but I don’t agree with it.” Then in disgruntled fashion and with a tight jaw, sit passively by as the husband insisted and she obeyed. I often was the one experiencing such frustration and guilty of such action.

However, I have learned a real secret that is a tremendous help. Submission is an attitude of heart that can only be given to another in willingness. This attitude of heart is what the Lord requires of a wife in a marriage, and a woman in the church. The above scene describes a totally unsubmissive person being obedient. This does not work the work of God. Submission is a gift to give away and no one can make me give it — except the Lord. I can give it, but no one can make me give it. Submission is a matter of faith, or trust if you will.

Obedience, on the other hand, is not only commanded, it can be required by another person. However, if I am obedient while all the time unsubmissive in my heart, I have not accomplished the will of the Lord. In fact, I may actually be doing harm through obedience. Our Lord set it up in His word so that it would be a thing of gifting — not a thing of law.

It is a joy to give submission — and a joy to obey when love surrounds me. It is harder to give both when the hard edge of oppression (in one form or another) surrounds me. Nevertheless, my Lord requires me to give submission with no manipulation and to obey with joy — regardless. This is a training of the heart. It is the training of the heart of the Kingdom — for if we examine the ways of the Kingdom of God in Scripture, we will find that this is the way all is accomplished, whether we are male or female. This training of the heart must be accomplished in our prayer closets. It is a private matter of empowering in the Lord.

The “lines have fallen to me in pleasant places” and my husband and I now worship where I have freedom of expression and so my frustration levels are relatively easy to keep dissolved. However, whether it is my dear husband ordering my steps, or the headship of my church — all must be received as of the Lord.

Remember, it is the training of the heart — not what is done or not done — but why was it done or not done — that makes all the difference in the Spirit of our Lord.

One thought on “Submission & Obedience

  • I really enjoyed this post, and I totally agree. It’s perfectly possible to be obedient without being submissive in the least.
    Submission to me is a humble attitude of heart that is 100% about love and respect.

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