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Subordination as a messianic war against injustice

For Harink, 1 Peter’s (and Paul’s) call to subordination is not a call to acquiescence in the face of injustice. Rather it is the radical commitment to the belief that Christ’s own movement of self-giving love in the face of oppressive power is the only true way to be liberated from the oppression of the powers. Subordination means nothing less than participation in Christ’s own mode of being, his embodiment of the Trinitarian love in the world of death and slavery.

Of course this can only make sense or sound credible if one truly believes that Christ’s action is indeed “the original revolution.” If that is not true, then indeed the only real mode of power is violence. But if the gospel is true, the call to “subordination” is the call for us to enter into God’s own life itself. It is our participation in the messianic war of liberating love that cannot be held or constrained by the powers of death.


  1. This puts me in mind of when I came to Harvard Divinity School after a degree at Goshen College and a semester at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries, where John Howard Yoder was one of my instructors. We were reading Politics of Jesus in one of my classes, and I of course thought it was all so obvious. Then a female student began speaking of “radical subordination” in the context of a woman caught in domestic violence with her husband. I’ve never been able to read Yoder or I Peter without thinking of that

    Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Permalink
  2. Chris Grataski wrote:

    Nekeisha Alexis-Baker has an article on the issue of Yoder’s “revolutionary subordination” in relation to these sorts of problems in the book “Power and Practices: Engaging the work of John Howard Yoder”

    Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Permalink
  3. Halden wrote:

    Yes, this point came up rather quickly in the discussion time. Harink argued, and I agree, that “revolutionary subordination” most definitely does not mean remaining in an abusive relationship. The concept means nothing less than participation in Jesus’s own radically self-giving love and service. That, however does not mean simply recklessly subjecting oneself to violence. And indeed Jesus does not do this in the Gospels. He regularly prevents himself from being attacked by the crowds, withdrawing or going elsewhere to avoid such violence. As such his own mode of love clearly doesn’t seem to imply a sort of static notion that one must simply undergo any and all possible violence.

    Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Permalink
  4. Chris Grataski wrote:

    Would you agree, then, that it is Jesus’ confrontation of the powers that led to his death?… And that the “one act of righteousness” performed by Jesus (Rom 5), his “quintessential act of covenant keeping” (Gorman?) is what it is precisely because it is an act of non-violence, a sort of revolutionary subordination where, following Colin Gunton, Jesus resists the “order” of the present age and the way of the Powers exactly by refusing to resist his captors… a submission which consists in a refusal to submit?
    And would if follow from here that revolutionary subordination is submission to the consequences of, “in Christ,” living free from the powers?

    Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Permalink
  5. Halden wrote:

    Yes, absolutely.

    Monday, February 22, 2010 at 6:38 am | Permalink
  6. Bob wrote:

    It seems like Yoder and 1st Peter non-violence breaks down when Christians have some say in government like here in the USA. Christians in 1st Peter and most of the New Testament were a small, beleaguered minority

    Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 6:23 am | Permalink
  7. Doug Harink wrote:

    You’re right, Bob. How stupid of me not to realize that!

    Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink
  8. Halden wrote:

    Yeah, gee, how did I not think of that before, either??

    Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

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