Evil people seek only rebellion,
but a cruel messenger will be sent against them. Proverbs 17:11 NRSV
Rebellion: opposition to one in authority or (one in) dominance
In other words, rebellion is the antonym to submission.
As Christians, we need to stop claiming who we are and start looking at what we do.
Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. If your brother or sister is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. So do not let your good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace
and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat; it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble. Romans 14:13-21 NRSV
In this passage, judging someone isn’t so much about telling them that they are sinning and deciding that what they think is sin isn’t. In a sense, it’s actually encouraging them to sin in order to justify our own behavior. I think, because our society doesn’t deal specifically and actually with meat offered to idols, it’s hard to get a handle on Paul’s discussion here. But what if we substituted “watching TV.”
- “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is a sin in itself; but it is a sin for anyone who thinks it a sin. If your sister is being injured by your watching TV, you are no longer walking in love. For the kingdom of God is not watching TV but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of TV, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you watch; it is good not to watch TV or do anything that makes your sister stumble.”
All of the sudden, the passage makes a great deal more sense. Submission now becomes giving up that thing in our lives that is harming the other person. What submission is not is giving that other person their way when their way leads to sin. In other words, submission isn’t indulgence. Submission is sacrifice.
I think that we often, as Christians, look for ways to justify situations where we won’t have to submit. For example, with our children. We teach that children must submit to their parents, but not that parents must submit to their children. And yet Ephesians 5:21 teaches that we must submit to each other as believers. If our children – even our minor children – are believers, we are to submit to them. However, submitting to them doesn’t necessarily mean that we give them their way. What it does mean is that we choose the sacrificial way to live that will guide their lives into righteousness. Submission isn’t indulgence.
How much do we actually love? Are we willing to give up that which is comfortable, enjoyable, and even permissible in order that the other person around us will be guided into righteous living? Are we willing to narrow our own way in order to lead them to the way of life? What is the focus of our life, to get our own happiness or to minister and serve those around us? These are hard questions if we are truly honest with ourselves because they cut to the core of our motivation. How serious are we at being Christians? Perhaps as the new year approaches, this is something we should ask ourselves.