I enter into this pondering knowing full-well that some may consider this rebellious conversation – this is not my intention at all.
I would like to discuss the concept of submission within the ranks of the Army.
Is submission biblical?
Obvious answer – Yes.
Biblical Answers See:
Romans 13:1-7,Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 5:5, Ephesians 5:21
Were there instances in the early church where submission to authority was abused? Of course.
The fallout between the Apostle Paul and Peter was epic.
Peter exercised his authority in an inconsistent way. He ate with Gentiles on one occasion then on another when friends of James came by, he refused because he was afraid of criticism and pressure among the “circumcised traditionalists”.
(see Galatians 2:11-13)
Some might contend that this wasn’t a submission issue, but how would the Gentiles have felt in this instance being relegated and placed below another group of people because of what they did or didn’t practice?
It was an abuse of power that the Apostle Paul had to confront Peter on. After this or shortly after this period there is a shift in leadership within the early Church and Paul becomes the most prominent leader. Peter still had a role to play, naturally, but this was a pivotal moment when two leaders collided on an important issue.
On Ego and Abuse:
Whether it is The Salvation Army, the Roman Catholic Church or places of government – egos will exist.
There will always be those who wish to achieve a certain type of status and power in order to be placed above others.
After all, didn’t the disciples argue amongst themselves as to who would be greatest (Luke 9:46)?
It isn’t too far fetched to conceive that there are times when leadership and ego collide.
Good leaders will brush off the temptation to display their power over subjugates and those they lead.
Poor leaders will wish to remind others of who they are and just who is in charge.
Honestly it is a sign of character weakness when ego in leadership leads to abuse of power.
Examples of power struggles in our Army have happened over the years. Many variables take place and cannot always be chalked up to just ego and abuse, but it is not unheard of to have leaders ship off officers and (even employees for that matter) are sent to “punishment appointments”. It is sometimes a means to an end. It is sometimes validated. Sometimes this environment develops a culture of fear.
Have we cultivated this “culture of fear” in our Army?
I certainly hope not.
I do believe that there are godly men and women who lead in a manner of holiness and conviction.
I am also not naive in my thinking that ego and abuse are exempt in our Army…it does happen, but I am hopeful that this is a rare occurrence instead of the norm. Some might call me naive in this thought…so be it.
Who do we submit to?
One of the verses that helps me on this topic (because I am really not good at submitting, if I am brutally honest) is Ephesians 5:21 – “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
I am not a conformist by nature.
I am a fighter.
I will tell you how I feel – there’s no beating around the bush with me.
I know that I must temper this…I imagine you do as well.
I must admit submission is one of my personal struggles.
It isn’t about pride with me, it is all about trust.
For me trust in leadership has to be earned.
I need to know the leaders I serve under have my back.
I need to know that leaders I serve under will support me.
I need to know that leaders I serve under won’t throw me under the bus.
I need to know that leaders I serve under will treat me (and other officers and staff) with honesty, godliness and humility.
1. We submit to God.
In this complete submission we find peace no matter what life or “Army life” throws our way.
When we can fully submit to God (which isn’t easy) we can, as an act of worship to Him submit to the leaders that He has placed in our path. This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. This is where the true test of our mettle lays.
We can say “we trust God and we are submitting to Him fully,” and yet our actions can tell us something completely different. Holiness isn’t just about living in our corps and in our communities, holiness is also about living a life of submission…some might say these two things go hand in hand. Will there be bad leaders who abuse power and who are led by ego? Yes, but everyone will have to account for their own actions one day before the Father. What we can do within our personal holiness is submit to Him first and allow Him to work in our submission to others.
2. Submit to Authority
This authority includes leaders we work under. We are all imperfect people and we all make mistakes. The higher you go within the spectrum of leadership, the greater the pressure and the higher the scrutiny. Have mercy on those who lead you. Show respect, love and patience. You may not always agree. I am not saying roll over and accept decisions that are wrong…but choose your battles wisely. Choose also how you will respond to criticism and correction. This happens in every aspect of life, whether it’s a correction by a police officer for speeding, or it is a moment of correction in a conference room with your supervisor – be godly people and react in godly ways through it all.
This. is. a. tough. place. to. respond. with. holiness.
Does abuse and ego happen in our Army? – Yes.
Can we change that dynamic? I certainly hope so. I am willing to change it, are you?
1. Pray for your leaders.
You might be surprised what God can do to perhaps soften their heart as well as yours.
Also in our prayers God can reveal to us places where we need to be focusing on our own egos, pride and issues.
2. Some Day, Who Knows, You might be that leader…then what?
A wise man once said to me – “remember how you were treated by that person/leader, and then strive to become a better person/leader than that in your own life.”
“So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.”
(Count Your Blessings/Johnson Oatman, Jr.)
Something more for our Army to ponder today!
To God be the glory!