I believe the lens with which we view any discussion must be the lens of the freedom we have been given in Christ. Read more here.
Morality or Freedom?
Therefore, any discussion about submission that is not first seen through the gospel (what God, in Christ has done) will likely lead to a moralistic attempt to fulfill God's demands. In other words, we will focus on the application of scripture without first reveling in the proclamation of scripture. We will be left to our own devices to pull ourselves together and follow the rules regarding submission. As you may have experienced, this is a losing proposition.
The Bible says God loves an obedient giver. No, that's not what the Bible says. The Bible says God loves a cheerful giver, (2 Cor 9:7). Submitting for the sake of submitting in order to fulfill the Law is not what God had in mind. Outward obedience is not the kind of submission that flows from the gospel. It is precisely that kind of outward obedience that God said we are free from. Martin Luther said:
Faith in Christ brings freedom from the crushing obligation of the law.
Begin With The Right Question
I remember my pastor once said the if you want to get a party going just walk into the room and say the word predestination! The same could be said for the word submission. There have been reams and reams of paper produced expounding this subject. On Amazon alone, there are 172 Christian books on submission. Every book answers (or tries to answer) this one question; What does submission look like? In other words, how do we submit?
However, I might as well tell you to "be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect." Now, just go do that.
The problem is we can't do that. None of us are perfect. In the same way, no man loves their wife perfectly. God did not just say, "Husbands, love your wives." He said, "Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church." Loving your wife as Christ loves the church is a picture of perfection - to the point of a love-motivated, self-sacrificing death. Husbands, who of you has done that? No wife respects her husband perfectly. Our hearts are deceitful and our motives are impure. Wives, who of you has respected your husband with right motivations and thoughts? Herein lies the crux of the matter. We can talk all day long about what submission looks like, but at the end of the day what we are talking about is law. What we’re talking about is the ought to, the command which only kills. We are left with death. Just death. No power to bring to life.
Only Jesus Submitted Well
You don't have to look hard to see an utter lack of submission in the Bible. Abraham denied the fact that Sarah was his wife. He lied by saying she was his sister. The disciples promptly fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane after Jesus said, "Watch and pray." David slept with another woman. I wouldn't exactly call that loving your wife as Christ loved the Church. We are in good company. We have all failed in our efforts to submit. We can't do it. We don't submit well, we don't want to submit period (that started back in the garden), and even when we want to do the right thing, we still don't carry it out right. We are in trouble all over the place.
Our Record of Submission is Perfect
Jesus fulfilled the law on our behalf in every way and perfectly. He is our Savior, Rescue and Sin-taker. As a result, in the midst of our relationships when we realize we are not getting it done, we can remember the One who submitted perfectly. That record is ours.
When we don't submit because we are flat out disobedient, we can remember that Jesus obediently submitted, to the point of death. That record is ours.
When we realize we can’t submit, we can remember that Jesus could, and did, even in the midst of seemingly impossible circumstances. That record is ours.
When we don’t know how to submit, we can remember that Jesus knew how to perfectly submit, and he carried it out. That record is ours.
When we are ignorant of what submission looks like in a particular relationship, we can remember that Jesus knew exactly what submission looked like in every single one of his relationships and acted upon that perfect knowledge. That record is ours.
Joyful and spontaneous submission unencumbered by the weight of the Law - that is true submission. That is what cheerful giving looks like.
Here is your record of submission:
For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. John 6:38
So that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. John 14:31
You heard that I said to you, `I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. John 14:28
Even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. John 10:15
...just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. John 15:10
And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will. Matthew 26:39
Honestly speaking, my desires are wrong, my motivation is lousy and any follow through is worse. Pride, arrogance, stubbornness, ignorance, and love of self get in my way...in my marriage, at my job, in my relationships. Like Paul, I find I do what I don't want to do. And the things I know I should do, I don't. It is glorious good news that I can take comfort and find rest in Christ's perfect submission on my behalf.
Revel in the good and relieving freedom that His record is now yours!