How to Lead Those to Whom You Must Submit

How to Lead Those to Whom You Must Submit

There are many relationships that require submission—a church member to an elder, a child to a parent, a wife to a husband, an employee to an employer.

What do you do if the person to whom you must submit is in the wrong? Or, you believe, could simply use a little of your helpful guidance?


Say Something, Gently.

Often your relationship is good enough that you can offer your advice in a gentle way, that does not threaten the individual nor challenge his role.

Sad to say, foolish pride prevents many leaders from benefitting from their subordinates. Employers miss out on many great opportunities to succeed when they create a climate in which employees are afraid to speak their minds. Just think of the miracle that Naaman would have lost had he automatically boxed the ears of the little Israelite servant girl when she came to him and said, “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:3).

Elders rob themselves of many valuable eyes and ears when they refuse to consider the perspective of the congregation. Of course, final decisions are still in the hands of the leaders who shall give an account to God (Heb. 13:17), and good followers are ready to accept the decision after their advice has been heard, even if it goes against what they had hoped. But Abraham wanted to be sure that God, yes God, had considered a decision from every angle (Genesis 18:16-33).

The Scriptures say, “The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor, and life” (Prov. 22:4). “The way of a fool is right in his eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Prov. 12:15). “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Prov. 11:14)—can there be a better group of counselors than a church full of like-minded Christians, all striving for the same goal?

This is especially true of some husbands, who are too overbearing or unreasonable to consider their wives’ wisdom, who not only are “a fellow heir of the grace of life” but are often more intuitive, personable, observant, and godly. Such husbands resemble Nabal, who was such a foolish and “worthless man that no one can speak to him” (1 Samuel 25:17). Not even the smartest and most spiritual person in his home, his wife Abigail, could reason with him, and he suffered an awful price as a result.


Appeal to the Word.

There is a higher authority than the most powerful leader, and that is the Bible! A wife may not be able to convince her husband to give up his drunken ways for her sake or for the children’s sake, but she can gently remind him what the Bible says about it. Now, he defies God, rather than her! Even a child can remind a parent about a passage of Scripture.


Be a Good Example.

Quality work and cheerful vibes are infectious. Be a great person and a diligent worker, and your superiors will naturally come under your influence.

First Peter 3:1–2 says, “you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.” Many are the wives who have led their husbands to Christ through the irresistible power of a good example.

Wish your church leaders would do more? Do more yourself. Wish your boss would be more honest? Be honest yourself. In every relationship, show yourself an example of “speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity” (1 Tim. 4:12) and they—no matter who they are—will be impressed and challenged to change. A good example may be the best kind of leadership, for it needs no title, no badge, to succeed.


Submit Even in Disappointment.

Not every situation can be changed. Sometimes people just don’t see things our way; sometimes people insist on being wrong! Submission, however, is demonstrated not so much when we agree with our leaders, but when we disagree with them.

It may even be worse than that! I am thankful that we live in a society that has outlawed slavery. But 1 Peter 2:18-19 still teaches me something valuable about how I should behave when I think my leaders are way out of line.

Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.

Kids, when you turn 18 you can make your own rules. Wives with difficult husbands, seek the advice of others for coping strategies. Employees, don’t leave your family in the lurch, but begin seeking other forms of employment elsewhere. And always pray that God will change things for the better.                                                           —John Guzzetta