Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time and you do not know me, Philip? The one who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9)
In the last part, we looked at examples of how Jesus subdued and ruled over His earthly creation as our Heavenly Father intended. Now, we’ll unpack examples of how Jesus refused to misuse the Subdue and Rule Mandate by deploying it against others, especially in its corrupted Conquer and Dominate form. We’ll explore what Jesus could have done in each situation if He were sinful like us and how He correctly modeled humanity’s Subdue and Rule Mandate.
Even though Jesus was born as God in human flesh, Jesus didn’t live His life out of His “God side.” His purpose was to show us what we would be like if we walked our Father’s way perfectly. Gee, Satan said we “would be like God” if only we disobeyed God’s will. Jesus tells us, “you will be like God,” but only if we obey God’s will. Jesus not only showed us how that’s done, but He also made doing so possible by freeing us from sin and setting us on the path of total restoration. As a human being who fully obeyed God, what Jesus is, we will become.
Therefore, as the perfect man, Jesus showed us how not to subdue and rule.
Don’t get me wrong. Although Jesus “emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity” (Philippians 2:7), He didn’t surrender His divine nature. Because of that divine nature, His character was still absolutely aligned with the Father and Spirit. As a human being, Jesus became the perfect image (reflection and function) of His Father that we were designed to be.
When God granted Moses the clearest revelation of who He is, He shielded Moses from seeing His face because encountering the fullness of God’s being would destroy Moses in his fallen human state. However, God safely revealed Himself by proclaiming “His name,” that is, revealing to Moses His attributes and character:
“The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love (covenant love) to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin…” (Exodus 34:6-7).
Since Jesus is His Father’s Son and is the perfect image of his Father, Jesus shares the same attributes as his Father. Jesus showed the world that He, too, is merciful, compassionate, full of grace, slow to anger, abounding in love and truth, maintaining covenant love to a thousand generations, and forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. As Jesus said to His disciple, Philip, “The one who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Therefore, we should expect Jesus to subdue and rule consistent with all His Father’s attributes and character.
How Jesus Refused to Conquer and Dominate
I must repeat this: God created humanity to subdue and rule the earth and everything on it. However, God did not create us to subdue and rule other people. We were supposed to do our job as God’s viceregents cooperatively, side by side, shoulder to shoulder. We were designed to function horizontally with others, not vertically, as in a hierarchy. The only ruling hierarchy that existed in the beginning was God at the top, humanity, and creation.
The following chart shows instances where Jesus chose not to exercise his dominion drive over people, and this part will address the first eight examples.
While Jesus possessed the Subdue and Rule Mandate as a human being, how do Jesus’ reactions to these incidents reflect His refusal to operate in the sinful and self-centered Conquer and Dominate mode? What can we learn from Jesus’ example?
Wilderness temptation. If Jesus had shifted to Conquer and Dominate mode during His wilderness temptation, He would have refused to obey His Father’s will and followed His own to help Himself. For example, Jesus would have willfully created food for self-gratification and self-preservation through His strength and Spirit-empowered abilities. This situation hits at the heart of the “sweat of your brow” fear factor that began right after the Fall. Jesus’ first test was to see if He would keep His dominion drive submitted to His Father’s will when faced with basic human desires, even in great need. This first temptation struck at the core of human nature – putting ourselves ahead of God, which is idolatry’s root.
Jesus refused to satisfy His desires (the lust of the flesh/to enjoy), gain recognition (the lust of the eyes/to obtain), and achieve His goal (the pride of life/to achieve) by exercising dominion in His own strength and will. Conquer and Dominate drives us to satisfy ourselves at the expense of God’s will. Conquer and Dominate puts us in God’s place in our lives. Jesus’ refusal to subdue and rule His world apart from His Father’s will shows us that the absolute first part of God’s creation to be brought under control and mastered is ourselves. The only person on earth God wants you to subdue and rule is you.
A “not-one-of-us” disciple using Jesus’ name to drive out a demon. One of the common manifestations of Conquer and Dominate is the drive to guard one’s personal world, or domain, against another person’s infringement, encroachment, or usurpation.
“Protecting my turf” is a natural response to those threats. In the case of the man driving out demons in Jesus’ name, i.e., using Jesus’ authority, without being affiliated with the “in-group,” the core twelve disciples showed a classic Conquer and Dominate attitude. Jesus had already given His twelve inner circle disciples authority and power to cast out demons (Matthew 10:1). But for a follower of Jesus to use His authority to cast out demons and not be part of the twelve was an affront to the core group’s sectarian sensibilities. “We tried to stop him because he does not follow us” (Luke 9:49).
The Conquer and Dominate attitude pushes us to establish our “turf,” a claimed “space,” often defined by self-made rules, “correct” speech, actions, localities, responsibilities, perks, membership, etc. The core disciples’ view was, “How dare someone use our rabbi’s authority to perform a good work without being part of our group! Casting out demons in Jesus’ name is our thing.” This sectarian version of turf protection promotes pride-filled exclusivity. Sadly, this attitude has often prevented Christian churches and ministries from cooperative ventures even though they agree on the core Bible basics.
Jesus represented His Father’s kingdom, authority, and power as a manifestation of His Father’s dominion, “If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28). No one can lay an exclusive claim to any part of God’s kingdom. Separating along sectarian lines is ungodly unless based on a clear doctrinal or sin issue. Regardless of which “team” a Jesus-follower is on, the biblical truth is we’re all in one kingdom, and in our Father’s kingdom, His will is for all His subjects to work shoulder to shoulder as one team in the joint work of advancing His kingdom around the world.
Oh, and as an added bit of humor, how did Jesus respond to His disciples’ offense in Luke 9? In the very next chapter, Jesus delegates His authority and power to another 72 disciples to do the same thing He commissioned the Twelve to do previously. So there, guys.
Samaritan rejection of Jesus’ advance team. Jesus’ rejection by the Samaritans (Luke 9:51-56) immediately follows the sectarian fracas in Luke 9:49-50. Jesus and His entourage are on their way to Jerusalem and must pass through a Samaritan village. Jesus sends emissaries to the village to prepare for His arrival. As soon as the Samaritans discover Jesus’ destination is Jerusalem, they refuse to welcome Him due to the Samaritan vs. Jew animosity (John 4:9), even though some had already embraced Jesus in the Samaritan community (John 4:40).
How did Jesus handle such an insult? He did nothing. On the other hand, James and John felt such an insult deserved a divine roasting via fire from heaven. It looks like the two took up the offense on Jesus’ behalf, which poked their ethnocentric feelings, which fueled their desire for a retaliatory strike. In other words, their Conquer and Dominate drive kicked into high gear. “How dare they refuse us? Don’t they know who they’re dealing with? They should submit to our request or face the consequences.” Conquer and Dominate demands others submit to us or risk retaliation.
A few verses back, Jesus refused to use His dominion drive to protect a sectarian “turf.” This time Jesus sternly rebukes James and John for their unwarranted over-the-top response to the Samaritan’s ethnically-based separatist snub from the Samaritans protecting their literal turf. In the first case, the disciples defended what they believed belonged to them – using Jesus’ delegated authority and power. In the Samaritan case, the disciples were offended that the Samaritans refused to surrender their turf, even for a bit of hospitality.
Much interpersonal conflict can be prevented or calmed if 1) we aren’t so concerned about guarding our turf/domain and 2) are respectful and willing to honor another’s turf/domain even if it seems unreasonable to us. Jesus refused the religious and ethnic separatist responses, especially since James and John wanted a tiny bit of payback, like retaliatory murder! Conquer and Dominate reactions like this are clearly satanic in origin because of their willingness to harm others. Some manuscripts record Jesus’ rebuke revealing how wrong-headed the two were, “You don’t know what kind of spirit you belong to. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy people’s lives but to save them” (Luke 9:55-56; compare with John 8:44). Proper subduing and ruling never brings harm to other people. Instead, we’re all supposed to work together for our mutual benefit. If not, we walk away like Jesus in this instance.
Many believed Jesus based on his signs. The Subdue and Rule Mandate is God’s grant to us to exercise dominion over the earth and its creatures, never people. But due to the Fall, people began subduing and ruling others. Thus, we have all manner of hierarchies in human society, from simple group pecking orders to governmental hierarchies in nations, kingdoms, and empires, as we’ve already examined. But in the beginning, there was only one King over one kingdom, with His priest-king viceregents working side by side to extend His domain throughout His created world. However, after the Fall, there came two significant changes.
First, a few people began driving for geopolitical dominions, such as Nimrod, who became the Bible’s first kingdom-builder, and was he ever good at it! Check out Genesis 10:10-12. Second, many people accepted rulers over them and even actively sought them out. For example, the people of Israel asked Gideon to be their king (Judges 8:22) and later asked God for a king like the nations around them (1 Samuel 8:5). And here we come to the flip side of the Conquer and Dominate coin.
Some people are driven to rule others. But many people want to be ruled.
It’s human nature to want to be cared for. From where does this come? Initially, Eden’s protected and self-sustaining confines show that we were designed to depend on a higher power to provide for our every need. However, when Adam and Eve decided to do things for themselves, God punished the couple by evicting them from their stable, dependable, “everything provided” environment. From that moment forward, life became frighteningly unpredictable, and we’re now forced to fend for ourselves.
So, we work to provide for ourselves and our families, although, to be honest, God is our ultimate supplier (Matthew 6:33). But if people disregard God and face deprivation, many people will gladly surrender authority and power over their lives to another person who will assuredly provide for them. It’s painfully true that people in need naturally gravitate toward those with the ability and power to supply. Sadly, there are many politicians, dictators, and tyrants with an unrestrained Conquer and Dominate drive who are more than willing to dish out the goodies (welfare benefits, stimulus checks, free cell phones, “free” healthcare, “free” citizenship, etc.), if people will just submit to them as their overlords. Wait! I mean generous, gracious political leaders with no agendas whatsoever.
In Jesus’ case, there was never anyone with power like Him to provide everything for everybody. With a scant few loaves and fish, Jesus fed 5,000 and 4,000 people with leftovers for a snack. Those who partook in those feeding miracles realized that is a king to whom they would utterly submit, even if it meant using their Conquer and Dominate drive to force Jesus to rule over them. Do you see how twisted this gets?
However, Jesus refused to use Conquer and Dominate to leverage His authority and power to gain dominion over people (albeit willing) to gain His kingdom outside His Father’s plan and timing. Therefore, Jesus refused to entrust Himself to people (John 2:23-24) or be made king by force (John 6:15). Jesus successfully kept His human dominion drive in check to fully accomplish His Father’s will.
Woman caught in adultery. The woman caught in adultery is fascinating as the Jewish leadership instigated a Conquer and Dominate attack on Jesus through their entrapment question (John 8:2-11). The woman had been caught in the act, and the punishment was death (Leviticus 20:10). However, “Roman law did not permit execution for adultery” (Jewish Annotated New Testament).
The Jerusalem leadership had long opposed Jesus (Matthew 12:2) and tried to Conquer and Dominate Jesus by discrediting Him (Matthew 12:24). When that failed, in true Conquer and Dominate fashion, the leaders looked for ways to legitimately or illegitimately get rid of Jesus. In this case, they tried to manipulate Him into a no-win situation. If Jesus ruled for the woman’s death as a respected and recognized rabbi, the leadership could accuse Him to the Romans of breaking their law. If Jesus ruled against her death penalty, they could accuse Him of breaking the Torah and disqualify Him as Israel’s Messiah.
However, Jesus pointed out their own more insidious “adultery” by writing in the dust, hinting at the Torah’s adultery test (by using dust from the sanctuary floor, Numbers 5:17) and God’s judgment on those who “cheat on him” via Jeremiah’s prophetic indictment, “Lord, the hope of Israel, all who abandon you will be put to shame. All who turn away from me will be written in the dirt, for they have abandoned the Lord, the fountain of living water” (Jeremiah 17:13). As one by one the leaders figured out Jesus’ stinging indictment, they dropped their stones and walked away. The leaders tried to Conquer and Dominate Jesus via deceit, yet Jesus subdued and ruled over their attack by properly interpreting and applying His Father’s word to them.
What about the guilty woman? Despite her guilt, since no witnesses remained to validate the adultery charge (Deuteronomy 17:6), Jesus dropped the case. He mercifully rescued her from the leaders’ Conquer and Dominate scheme, men who were willing to use a vulnerable person to Conquer and Dominate Jesus even if it meant her death. Jesus’ display of mercy and compassion revealed His Father’s character within Him, and those two traits are hallmarks of exercising dominion properly.
Forgiving a “sinful” woman. In a similar situation, Jesus encountered a woman whose sinful past was well-known in her community (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus righteously exercised dominion by refusing to hold the woman’s sin against her (a common Conquer and Dominate ploy used to control others) while exercising His Father’s prerogative to forgive her sins.
We have no right to stand between God and a sinner and play gatekeeper. If that person truly repents of their sins and it shows by their changed life, who are we to hold their past sin against them? Sadly, it’s all too common for people to hold someone’s past against them to gain and keep control over them or use it to help us feel that we’re better than “that sinner.” We see this Conquer and Dominate attitude in Simon’s thoughts, “This man, if he were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—she’s a sinner!” (Luke 7:39). In this example, Jesus models how His Father wants His viceregents to treat each other by allowing people to change and refusing to judge them based on their past.
Disciples abandoning Jesus. As stated earlier, influential people often strive to build their personal dominion by gathering followers. This is true in many areas of life – politics, business, organizations in general, and even ministry. The hunger for significance has often triggered a person’s Conquer and Dominate urge to build up whatever numbers or other measures are used to determine success.
Using numbers to validate ministry has bothered many pastors and driven some to do whatever they think is needed to see their ministry “kingdom” increase. Rather than use God’s standard for what a healthy church is to be and leave the growth up to Him, some church leaders abandon the biblical metrics of spiritual maturity and unity (Ephesians 4:13) and adopt the world’s standards and methods even if it means ignoring or violating God’s will. It’s all about the numbers, baby! On the contrary, Jesus sometimes did things like teaching spiritual truths in tough ways to deliberately “cull the herd” (John 6:60-66) or using parables to separate those who truly see and hear God’s word and those who don’t (Matthew 13:10-13). Jesus refused to use his dominion mandate “boost the numbers” to validate His ministry and fuel His pride.
Washed his disciples’ feet. Jesus’ foot-washing event is one of the finest demonstrations of humility and servanthood, the most potent antitoxins to the Conquer and Dominate mindset. God’s intent for the Subdue and Rule Mandate was for it to be used by His people for “us-focused,” godly cooperation. However, the drive to Conquer and Dominate always displays a “me-focused, cooperate-only-when-it-benefits-me” mindset.
The “serve me” mentality coaxes or coerces others to submit to “me” so I can bring “my” personal world under control, further expand its boundaries to engulf whatever “I” encounter, and then hold with an iron grip whatever new domain “I” have come to control. Sometimes that grip is gloved in velvet, but even in its subtle form, Conquer and Dominate’s effects can be felt, especially by the “object” of the dominator’s desire. I use the word “object” here rather than “person” because the Conquer and Dominate drive views people as objects to be controlled as they would any other earthly creature.
The person who Conquers and Dominates often objectifies people to determine whether they are fit for the dominator’s use or even abuse. The person who Subdues and Rules correctly recognizes and respects the other person’s humanity. Jesus counteracted the Conquer and Dominate mindset by showing His disciples no matter how important our calling is or how powerful and honed our abilities are, the best and safest way to function as God’s viceregent is always to place others first by being willing to humbly serving them.
Conquer and Dominate drives us to “rule down.” Jesus wants his followers to “serve up,” not “rule down.” It’s hard to objectify the person we lovingly serve. And as we serve others, relationships develop with a spirit of teamwork and mutual support that combines our callings and abilities to reach God’s goals.
Jesus demonstrates His refusal to use His Subdue and Rule Mandate as Conquer and Dominate by washing His disciples’ feet. The contrast is stunning because John tells his reader, “Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into His hands, that He had come from God, and that He was going back to God” (John 13:3).
If anyone had the right to expect, even demand, to be served, it is the One who held everything in His hands with His Father’s approval, who knew exactly who He was (the divine man, the Father’s Son) and was entrusted with full knowledge of His Father’s plan. And yet, the Sovereign King’s Son powerfully displayed how we are supposed to work with a humble servant attitude.
As we review these examples, many of Jesus’ decisions not to use His Subdue and Rule Mandate to Conquer and Dominate other people happened during relatively calm moments. The wilderness temptation was different, and that was definitely under great stress. However, that incident didn’t include other people. That temptation was a perfect opening salvo against misusing the Subdue and Rule Mandate because it focused on the primary object of what all of us must master in life if we’re to serve as God’s viceregents – ourselves.
For the most part, it’s relatively easy to control ourselves and not fall into Conquer and Dominate when the situation isn’t too challenging. But how do we react under duress? How easily will we slip from Subdue and Rule into Conquer and Dominate when we’re pressed physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually? Is it even possible to manage our urge to control when situations are tumultuous and threatening?
Let me ask you, was Jesus a human being? Yes. Did He go through great distress? Yes. Do you think when He faced extreme pain and death, He was tempted to Conquer and Dominate everyone and everything around Him during His final hours? Yes. Did He succeed in remaining faithful to His Father’s will? Yes.
Then you can, too.
In the next part, we’ll focus on Jesus’ refusal to use His Subdue and Rule Mandate as Conquer and Dominate even as He faced the worst things in life.
The Jewish Annotated New Testament (NRSV)
Pastor Jay Christianson
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