Thursday, October 22, 2009

Submit yourselves therefore unto God. (James 4:7)

The word “submit” as it is translated in the KJV New Testament has an interesting meaning, different from the one we give that word in modern usage. Verses there tell us to “submit” to God and to each other (See also Romans 10:3 and Ephesians 5:21, etc.). The word is most commonly a translation of one form or another of the Greek word “hupotassomai”, which is “to have a voluntary attitude of being responsive to the needs of others”. In other words, it is coming to a state of being where you choose to listen and respond to the thoughts and understanding of another as much as you do your own. It’s an action born of unselfish respect and love for other. Jesus’ loving “submission” to the will of the Father throughout his life was the ultimate example of this.
It may be an easier thing to do when life is going well, but one of the biggest challenges we face when we are hurt and hurting is that of being so overwhelmed by what we are feeling that we are unable to stop our minds from going over and over and over it again and again. That’s normal. And also, that constant self-conversation makes hearing and paying kind heed to anyone else’s thoughts, including God’s, very difficult. And I’m sure he understands that and takes that into consideration.
Personally, in difficult times, it is only after I have been able to get far enough along in a sorrow that I can get my mind to start to shut up a little about the injustices or pain I feel, that I am able to begin to emerge and really hear and engage in hupotassomai to my fellow human beings or to God without filtering everything they say or need through my own personal pain. It takes some time to get there. It is a process of emerging and seeing self and others more clearly and lovingly apart from my pain. (Whereas the modern meaning would imply that I was to acquiesce to the will of others without argument while still fully consumed by my sorrow or pain. Very different.)
Anyway, understanding the difference between the modern and Greek meanings of the word makes a difference for me.