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Servitude and Free Will: When Is Being Submissive Justified?


Recently learning about a big change approaching in my career, I let my mind wander with my feet as I ran, pounding pavement through swirls of emotion. Something about running always brings clarity to my soul, and this run in particular carried my thoughts to a recent Theology on Tap on “Faith and Relationships”. We were discussing the passivity of being a “doormat”; that those who respect themselves cannot possibly be a doormat, because they only become stepped on when they allow it. The difference is in the type of submission.

It really got me thinking about how we are called to obedience:  Obedience to God[1], to our parents[2], and to those in charge, recognizing their authority as God-given[3]. Often times, non-Christians see Christian values of humility and submissiveness as weakness and slavery:  this could not be further from the truth. It is manifested most perfectly in Christ Himself, who reveals the model of the servant-leader:  he bent down to wash his disciples’ feet, in an act of servitude. Peter was hugely offended:  Christ was belittling himself! And yet, He did it not with the passive submissiveness of a slave, who performs their service as an expected duty, but as an active submissiveness of one who knew His true worth and was humbling Himself out of love! 

This changes everything. Following Christ’s model, it does not abolish the Law and the Prophets (our duty to God), but rather uplifts and fulfills them (our submission to God out of love)[4]. Being a servant[5] not only changes our relationship with God, but everyone else as well! It triumphantly glorifies God through the dignity of the human person, transforming the whole idea of marriage[6] and how to act towards others[7]. Jesus himself directly calls us to this.[8] 

This model of servant-leadership showed me in a radical way that I had a choice:  I could be passive, and submit to my new career path as if I had no say in the matter; or, I could actively choose to submit, trusting that those making decisions about my career for me both are making the judgment with greater experience than myself, and that they have both my own and my company’s best interests in mind. From this perspective, as with all things in this life, though God has a plan for me, I’m not a blind puppet. Each day when I get up, I’m actively choosing to become a part of that plan. I’m not just here for the ride. Serviam!

References:
[1] Dt 11:1
[2] Eph 6:1, Exodus 20:12
[3] Jn 19:11, Romans 13:1-5
[4] Mt 5:19
[5] Mk 10: 42-45
[6] Col 3:18-19
[7] Mt 5:38-39
[8] John 15

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