A few days ago I wrote a short article in which I used the word ‘submission.’ I’ve just now realized that by using this word, I was being a bit naïve. The realization of my own naivety came when I read Kara Martin’s helpful review of the book Fifty Shades of Grey on the Sydney Anglicans website. Kara’s review made me realize that what we Christians mean when we use the word ‘submission’ is often entirely different to what our non-Christian world thinks when it hears the word ‘submission.’ That’s because Christians and non-Christians are spending their time reading two very different books. As a result, Christians and non-Christians are having their passions and desires shaped by two very different worldviews.
As Christians, we have—or at least, we should have—our lives, our passions, our desires and our thoughts shaped by constant engagement with the Bible. The Bible speaks, again and again, about an infinitely loving God, whose Son Jesus Christ willingly sacrificed himself for our sake, to bring forgiveness of sins and to include us in his own intimate relationship with a loving heavenly Father. The Bible calls us to give our lives to this loving God, to rejoice in our status as God’s beloved children, and to respond in thankfulness and love to Jesus’ unfathomably great sacrifice. This is what the Bible calls ‘submission.’ This sacrifice-submission dynamic between Christ and his people is at the core of our lives, and it is also meant to inform the relationship between husband and wife.
But according to book-sale statistics, a huge proportion of our non-Christian friends are having their lives, their passions, their desires and their thoughts shaped by devouring a book whose view of human relationships is as far from the biblical vision as it could possibly be. This is a book which revels in sado-masochistic sexual deviance and abuse, and tens of millions are craving and consuming it as a form of entertainment. The popularity of this book means that our world is frequently hearing the term ‘submission’ in the context of the passive acceptance of sexual victimization. This, of course, means that when many of our friends hear us using the word ‘submission,’ their thoughts will automatically run to the degrading and damaging things they have filled their minds with.
I’m not making any apologies for my naivety. I’m glad I was naïve, and wish to remain so as much as I possibly can. I am, of course, aware that Fifty Shades of Grey is an exceedingly popular book; yet I am deliberately avoiding having anything to do with it. My own heart is subject to sin; I suspect that even considering the themes of the book will damage my (all too faltering) attempts to love, cherish and protect my wife, my daughters and my son. I’m very grateful that Kara read (most of) the book, so that I don’t have to.
Nevertheless, now that I’ve realized the existence of my naivety, I have a couple of brief suggestions for others.
- If you’re a Christian, be aware that when you use the term ‘submission’ in any public discussion, the chances are high that you’ll be heard saying something quite different to what you mean. That’s not a reason to fill your mind with the abuse-as-entertainment that is so prevalent in the world. Just be aware that if you want to use the word ‘submission,’ you’ll have quite a bit of explaining to do.
- And if you’re not a Christian but are reading this, I have a suggestion: please give Christians the benefit of the doubt when you hear them using the word ‘submission’ in a public discussion. They’re not necessarily thinking what you’re thinking. Wait for their explanation of what they mean before jumping to conclusions. It’s almost certain that if you stop and listen, you’ll hear something far more beautiful and upbuilding than anything you’ll find in Fifty Shades of Grey.