There are several phrases we use when we talk about surrender. We can say that someone threw in the towel. Or a team is waving the white flag.
Beyond those phrases, though, there are actions we take to show surrender. In a boxing match, the trainer will literally throw a towel into the ring to show that his fighter cannot continue. Soldiers will hold up or wave a white flag. A criminal will hold their hands up in the air to show that they surrender to the police. Even in chess, a player can surrender by laying down their king.
Surrender is one of the words that is heard regularly in sermons and in churches, but what do we mean when we say it? And what does it look like?
Surprisingly, the Bible doesn’t use the term surrender in the same way we typically hear it used in sermons, Bible studies or books. When we hear the term used in the “churchy” way, it’s a summery of several biblical teachings. It summarizes Jesus’ teachings about not worrying about tomorrow, about taking up one’s cross and about praying for God’s will to be done- even above our own will. It summarizes Paul’s exhortations to live is Christ and that Christ’s grace and strength come in weakness. It’s summarized John’s call to lay down our lives for each other. When we say surrender, this is what we are saying,
But saying that we surrender and surrendering are different things. As we already saw, surrender is accompanied by an action. An army that says they surrender yet continues to fight, really hasn’t surrendered. Surrender has to come with an action others can see, the sight of the surrender. What, then, is the sight of surrender as we apply to our life as followers of Jesus?
It’s not our GOP or NRA bumper stickers. It’s not the Santa Clause kneeling before baby Jesus we put in our yards at Christmas. It’s not that we know the exact moment to lift our hands during worship. It’s not even the way we can throw quotes of Scripture into everyday conversation: i.e. Co-worker: “How are you today?” You: “Well, in the words of Acts 3:8, I’m just walking and leaping and praising God.”
The sight of surrender in the Christian life has always been love. This love consists of love for God and love for others. It consists of loving our neighbors, as well as our enemies, as we love ourselves. It consists of loving the self-righteous, the sinner and the Samaritan. It consists of loving in the pleasure of joy and in the midst of pain.
When we surrender to God (using surrender as the summary of the teachings we mentioned earlier) the act that accompanies it, the sight of surrender, is love.
Love is a tricky thing, however, because just like surrender, saying and acting are two different things. In 1 John 3:18, the Apostle John tells us not to love just with words but love in “deed and truth.” Love takes action (deeds) but it also takes truth.
If we want to surrender to God and show that we are surrendered to God, the sight of that surrender is love- love in action and love in truth. We know, we understand, we see actions of love (or love in action) but what about love in truth?
We love in truth when we can come before God and not have any regrets in the way our actions have shown love. We love in truth when we can come before God in confidence that we loved our enemy in the same way we loved our neighbor. We love in truth when we can come before God in confidence that we loved the “sinner” the same way we loved ourselves. We love in truth when we can come before God in confidence that we loved Christ more than we loved our own lives. Any other kind of love isn’t a love in truth.
There have been several decisions both locally and nationally that have church members and Christians questioning those decisions and wondering how to respond. I believe the only response is that we, as Jesus followers, show the world that we have surrendered to God and that love becomes the sight of that surrender as we love in deed and love in truth.