Compass A ministry of the Australian
DIRTY ” WORDS
Submission. Obedience. Following.
What is submission and obedience? There are countless Christian books and resources on the topic of leadership. Many Christian organisations place a high priority on leadership training and sermons on the subject abound. The last issue of Compass focused on this important area! It’s much harder to find resources about submission to leaders, obedience and how to support our leaders well. Something in us instinctively rankles against being under the authority of another. In a rights-based culture, we don’t like the idea of giving up the power to control our lives or at least have our say. And the lure of being out front, being recognised, can be compelling. But the Bible teaches us that biblical obedience to leaders and those in authority is as important as biblical leadership. Jesus said that if anyone would follow Him, they must deny themselves and take up His cross (Luke 9:23). Denying self
is about choosing to let go of our right to control everything. How do we submit to our leaders in the family, church and civil context? Do we support our leaders by praying for them and encouraging them? In what situations should we not submit? It’s our prayer that the articles contained in this issue of Compass may provoke your thinking on this topic and that God would enrich our understanding and knowledge of Him. If you have any thoughts or responses to this issue, we would love to hear from you at the National Office.
Australians don’t really do submission... by Owen Larkin
Owen minsters with the Navigators Lifenet community in Canberra. He is married to Helen and they have a two year old daughter, Imogen.
Australians cut down the tall poppy; relish larrikinism; demand a ‘fair go’ for the little man (regardless of the rightness of his cause). We celebrate a popular history peppered with rebellion against rulers and authorities: from the lawless original convicts through the Rum Rebellion and the Eureka Stockade to our recalcitrant diggers telling the toffee-nosed British officers what they thought of certain orders. Obedience smacks of wowserism to Aussies. But not just us. Rebellion beats within all humans like a second shrivelled heart. For all are sinners and when you think about it, all sin is rebellion at its core. When we sin we put our rebel desires above God’s – we reject his authority and establish renegade self-government. We may not admit it to ourselves but we want control, we want the power to direct our own lives. That beating within will not let us bow the knee in submission to God or to any human authority. And yet the Bible tells us to submit to authorities because God has established them.1 They are part of the Lord’s ongoing work restraining evil in the world. That’s exactly what Paul says in Romans 13:4, that the one in authority is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. The authorities are God’s servants to maintain order and justice. Yes, they can abuse this dreadfully – Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot. But the general truth of this is clear when you remember countries where
institutional rule has collapsed: the appalling bloodshed in Rwanda and the violent lawlessness of Somalia and the Solomon Islands. Terrible evil inevitably prevails when there is no clear authority or rule of law. So authorities are part of God’s good plan and Christians are to respect them. Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good (Titus 3:1). I want to very briefly consider the consistent Biblical command to submit to every human authority. It is a difficult topic; there will be times when out of conscience Christians must not obey authorities.2 But in Australia today there will likely be few matters when we will feel compelled to civil disobedience. Let us think practically here about how we should submit to rulers and authorities. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king (1 Peter 2:17). To whom do we owe respect? According to Peter, we owe it to ‘everyone’ – all human beings are due the respect of creatures that bear their Creator’s image. Beyond this there is a particular care due to other believers: Paul writes in Ephesians that we should submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. All people are made in God’s image but Christians are temples of the Holy Spirit, being remade in the likeness of Jesus. What we do for the least of these we do for him. But the third admonition is most important. For it is our fear of God, our reverence of him, that underpins and sustains our submission to the people God has placed in authority over us. It
is our fear of God that helps us to honour the king. It is not because of anything intrinsically special about the ‘king’ that we honour him. In their song ‘Knights of Cydonia’, the band Muse ask the age-old question, ‘And how can we win | When fools can be kings?’ The Bible’s answer is that we are all fools and there are many unscrupulous governments. The king or the Government, or your boss, rules not because he is better than us or better at ruling (although this might clash with our democratic sentiments) but because the Lord of history has chosen to place him in authority over us. So what can we do to better submit to those in authority over us? Firstly, we need new hearts – we need our rebellious hearts replaced with obedient ones. We need to repent of our rebellion and put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And we need to do this not once, but surrender to him in every moment. We must fear the Lord. He stands behind all human authority – he will judge them for the way they rule. But he will judge us for the way we submit. Remember Jesus’ words in the great commission: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Is he your Lord and Master? Recognise that obeying authority is one aspect of your obedience to him. We must recognise that authorities are sinful humans as we are and respect them as God’s creatures. Our tendency is to dehumanise authorities. But they are not anonymous parts of a giant self-propelling bureaucracy. They need our prayers and our recognition of shared humanity. How do you think about state
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and federal parliamentarians, the police, public servants? How do you think about your boss at work? We should love to do good. The Lord says we have nothing to fear from authorities if we do what is right. So, are you doing the right thing? Do you value the law or do you speed in your car, abuse the tax laws, run pirate software and media, add unapproved structures to your house? Do you value the law only when you know you’ll get caught if you don’t? There are doubtless many other ways we can do this better. We live in a democracy, so to some extent our leaders reflect us all. Perhaps God will hold us a little accountable for the direction of our country. This may impel us to engage with our leaders where we can. Finally, our witness can deeply affect our leaders, can change their leadership and point them to the greatest leader. You may not, through your faithfulness, stun the king and alter the course of nations (as did Joseph, and Esther and Daniel). But in your respectful attitude in the workplace you may draw your boss to see that you serve the Lord of the Universe and recognise his authority. May they say with Nebuchadnezzar, who had to be reduced from his supreme authority to learn this: I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation.3
1 Romans 13:1-3 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 2 Acts 5:29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!” 3 Daniel 4:34
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submit and obey them. Examples: 1. Always do your Bible study homewo you may be in. Your group leader will rk for the small group turn up on time, fully prepared, and take joy in you as you willing to help the discussion go deeper. Actively do wha t they ask you to. Obey your leaders and submit to them 2. Respond to the Bible teaching you , for they are keep ing receive with deeper watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an obedience to God. account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you 3. I know one couple in our Navigat or community in Canberra sure that we have a clear conscience, . Pray for us, for we are who have made a deliberate commitm desi ring to act ent to personally “back honourably up” in all things. 1 or stand with our National Director and his wife. They are actively supportive of them in their Sounds pretty straightforward, but leadership, expressing how do we go at doing this? words of encouragement, and regu This Compass has already pointed out lar prayer for them. They see their role as mainly to support and to the authorities over us, and this sureour obligation to submit help the leader. ly inclu des thos e in spiritual leadership. The spiritual lead 4. Deliberately make positive commen watch over your souls, and they will ers you have are keeping ts leaders and their initiatives before othe of support for the this trust to God himself! Think abo have to give an account of r people in the group, ut even when the leader is not present. awesome is that responsibility – and how serious and The se must be genuine, so you are obliged to but it is very important to create an make it as easy for them as you can. environment of positive The Chu rch is calle sup d port and responsiveness to our lead the Body of Christ, and after the holiness ers. Positive words can create attitudes of submission in othe the most precious thing to the Fath of God’s glory is probably rs too. er, since he ransomed us with the highest imaginable price of 5. Too often, the only feedback us Aus his only Son. sies give our leaders is negative criticism, and mai This should give spiritual leaders pau ntai se, but can you also see how it ought to motivate us to resp are going well. Encourage them, and n silence when things ond build them up. Affirm verse tells us that our submission and rightly to them? The ever ything you can about them. And gue ss what, if you err leading of us a joy, rather than a drea obedience will make the on the side of too much positive com ment, when you do have the leader groan). A premise underlydful pain (why else would a negative criticism to make, leaders are that otherwise their leadership is of ing this simple advice is and more open to receiving it and resp much less defensive no adv anta ge to you it onding to your will not benefit you. Why? Because concerns – because they will trust you you since you have made negate their attempts to nurture you r lack of submission will their task a joy, not a pain. of ways spiritual leaders will respond r soul. There are a number to resis tanc e of thei r 6. Pray for them – really. The leadership, and many of them are pain greater majority of spiritual leaders Many leadership problems are to do ful for all concerned. are trying to act honourably with a as the leader. The point is that if you with the people as much r attitude and conduct towards them makes them groan, inst clear conscience, and require your are working against yourself and the ead of bringing joy, you prayers. It is in your interest. Church. Groaning leaders will not be able to This kind of willing responsiveness give their best. They are drained of energy and hope, and thus required by Scripture confronts our limi ted in the use of their spiritual gifts for the edification of the culture and our own independent the influence of the leader, the ministryChurch. If people resist hea rts. Let it do so, and create a be blocked from taking effect in thos of the Word of God may new Godly culture of submission in e area s of our lives. This would definitely be of no advantage your circles. This will be an to you. advantage to you and glorify the How to make things a joy for your spir By Dan Burns willing and genuine responsiveness itual leader? Practice a Fath er. and exhibit your desire to Deputy National Director 1 Hebrews 13:17 -18
The Australian Navigators
Confessions of a Modern Wife Ask the average woman what submission means to her and she’ll probably envisage a 1950s housewife, immaculately dressed, with perfect hair and make-up. She’s chained to the kitchen sink, externally smiling but inside her emotional state is akin to Munch’s ‘The Scream’. Submission has all kinds of connotations to the modern woman. It’s an ugly word and an even uglier concept. We don’t want to embrace it. Lace up your army boots and suck it in girls (and guys – you don’t like it either): we’re going to get up close and personal with that ugliness. Submission – what does it mean exactly? Most of us can stomach submission to authority,
and respect for elders (adolescence aside) but when it comes to submission in marriage we’re confused. Somewhere along the line we got the impression that submission was connected with slavery and worship of man. In the 1950’s they seemed to have it sorted. There were secular and Christian guides for women with detailed instruction on how to be a submissive wife. Then came the feminist movement. Many women wanted supremacy over men but found that can create disharmony as well. ABC watchers in the 1980s will remember ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’ who called his wife she-who-must-beobeyed. More recently the TV show ‘Something about Raymond’ has shown us a picture of marriage where the classier and cleverer woman often triumphs over the incompetent bumbling husband, Ray. Are these examples the best we can hope for in our marriages? Or should modern Christians revert to the 1950s model of marriage? Did feminism have
something to contribute? Are any of these pictures biblically accurate? I decided to investigate. To my surprise, none of my theology textbooks have a ‘submission’ section, but Strong’s Concordance was able to assist. The list of verses for submission is surprisingly short, and most are in the New Testament.1 In the New Testament Greek, submission is related to obedience, but it is not identical.2 To submit is to conform. This idea fits with the biblical idea of marriage where two become one and also the Christian life where we conform to the likeness of Christ. James includes submission in his list of wisdom from heaven which brings peace.3 Submission is linked to quietness and gentleness. In Isaiah we’re told that these things are our strength.4 So what can we learn from this study of submission? Can two equal, individual decision-makers co-habit without complete chaos and destruction? The Bible clearly says they can, but in practice it can be very difficult. Look at the world, and the message is to strive for your own gain, don’t trust anyone else, only work with others if you will ultimately gain from it: each person for their own selves. The Biblical way of life is a calling to community, relationship, teamwork and togetherness. I like to see it as the difference between competitiveness and co-operation. I don’t think of myself as a competitive person because I’m just not that sporty. But if I was completely honest with you I might admit to being a tad argumentative, perhaps. I like a good debate as long as I’m winning. I’m afflicted with pride because of my sinful nature. I want to be number one, as do you: it’s our human affliction. When I read verses about submission I see God’s way is to put myself aside for the sake of the other, to sacrifice myself for the purpose of harmony, all done out of reverence to Christ. This is in radical opposition to the way our generation behaves. It sounds like a good idea, but even in Christian circles you witness competition between people more often than cooperation. True submission is difficult but worthwhile. We have some treasured friends who have been married a lot longer than us. Individually they are both strong willed, independent, and forthright but together they are gentle and being with them you can feel peace. They exemplify cooperation, I can’t tell who is boss, and neither one is brow beaten. They are my picture of hope for our marriage. The purpose of submission is not to show your inferiority to another’s glory. Submission brings peace, shows peace to the world and reflects the peace of our Father. Submission isn’t ugly. It is a beautiful word and an even more glorious concept. There’s no guide book for submission because it’s not about your role in life, it’s about your character. 11 Corinthians 16:16; Ephesians 5:21,22; By Alison Goodwill Compass Team
Colossians 3:18; Hebrews 13:17; James 4:7; 1 Peter 2:13; 1 Peter 5:5 2 Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament 3 James 3:17 4 Isaiah 30:15
Submission: Where do you draw the line? There was a crisis that took place in a Christian organisation. The Director of the organisation became aware that one of his leaders was having an extra-marital affair. If news of this affair became public it would seriously damage the organisation’s reputation and bring shame to the image of Christ that it sought to represent. The Director decided to keep the affair hidden from the public and only told a few of the company’s leaders. In fact, he allowed the “offending” man to remain in his job but advised him to sort this issue out with his wife and discontinue the affair. He made it a priority to love the man despite what went on, and continue with his duty of care toward him. The Assistant Director of the organisation was opposed to the Director’s approach. He was concerned that if news of the affair came out at a later point, it would look as if the organisation’s leadership had acted softly and may be held accountable for letting the situation escalate or reoccur. The Assistant met with the Director privately to express his strong disapproval of keeping this man in his job. Having listened to the Assistant Director and devoting days to the issue in prayer, the Director held fast to his initial decision.
It was tempting for the Assistant to undermine the Director’s decision and take matters into his own hands. But he submitted to the Director’s decision in faith. How do we respond when our leaders make decisions that we don’t agree with? How should we respond when we don’t agree? by Luke Midena Luke Midena is the Director of the Macquarie University Navigator Ministry. He is married to Kate.
for your small group... In many of Paul’s letters he offers practical advice on submission and authority in various relationships. See Col 3:18 – 4:1, Eph 5:21-6:9, Phil 4:2-3. Also Peter reflected on similar thoughts in 1 Peter 2 :13-3:7. Have a quick read of these passages. 1. In these passages how much does “culture” of the day impact the aspect of submission? How much of submission is Biblical and how much in these examples is “culture” 2. In Luke’s article the Assistant Director had a moral dilemma: should he submit to the authority or go with his inclination of what is best to do in the situation and therefore obeying “God” rather than “man”? In what situations should we not submit but go our own way? What are the underlying principals of submission? 3. Reflect on the reason why Paul and Peter both addressed and commented on these aspects of submission to the emerging church of the day.
Disciple Making: A Practical Guide to Establishing New Believers John Sypkes
John Sypkes, former Tasmanian State Director of the Navigators, has written perhaps the first Aussie guide to disciple making. It is a practical guide with solid teaching and innovative ideas. The book is biblically based and highlights the generational importance of discipleship. John explains how to recognise spiritual growth in new believers, emphasises the importance of making your own resources and creating a library, and teaching accordingly in response to individual needs. In the Navigator spirit, it is an excellent resource for anyone keen to go out and make disciples. The book is available for $15 plus $3 postage per book. Send your name and address to John and Gaylene Sypkes, Discipleship Training Centre, PO Box 2039, Tranmere, Tasmania 7018. You can also order the book or join John’s discipleship network by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Any profits will go to printing the book in Hindi and Nepalese. Compass is a ministry of: The Australian Navigators Ltd ABN: 26 001 294 677
Nav office will also stock the book.
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If you no longer wish to receive this publication or to notify a change of address, please contact us: PO Box 6210 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153 AUSTRALIA Phone: (02) 8814 5006 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.navigators.org.au Editorial Team: Taryn Donohue David Turner Alison Goodwill Design & Layout: Anita Blöte - Highlight Graphics Unless otherwise specified, all Scripture quotations in this publication are from the Holy Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society The Calling of the Navigators worldwide is to advance the Gospel of Jesus and His Kingdom into the nations through spiritual generations of labourers living and discipling among the lost.