As you can tell, I’ve been noodling about this Subdue and Rule Mandate thing for quite some time.
Over the years, it’s been fun observing how it saturates life. When I get blasted by a new revelation about the Subdue and Rule Mandate or see a prime example of its sinful opposite, Conquer and Dominate, I often write a note immediately to remember it. Ask my wife. She especially appreciates my immediate note-writing skills while I’m driving and trying to keep my eyes on the road. When she asks me if she can help, I often politely decline because
“Driving and taking notes is in MY domain!”
Yeah, that goes over really well.
But is driving and note-taking MY domain solely? Are not my wife and I “one flesh,” as the Bible says? If so, why do I find it hard to surrender and submit to my wife’s offer instead of endangering our health and well-being?
In truth, it’s all about control – the urge to take control of MY domain and keep it under my control. But is my domain really mine?
Yes. Well, not directly. It’s God’s domain, actually. He just gives me responsibility over my delegated little slice of HIS domain. You know the story by now. Adam and Eve got arrogant and thought they could do what they pleased independently of God. He punished them and threw them out of the settled part of His earthly domain to the wild regions east of Eden, and yada, yada, yada. But God didn’t strip the couple of their delegated dominion. They only found it harder to get the job of taming the world done. Humans began to scramble for dominion over whatever area they occupied. Pretty soon, life devolved into a battle for control over whatever domain a person claimed – themselves and their world, another person, and that person’s world.
What is a domain? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a domain as “a territory over which control is exercised.” While researching, I discovered that a domain is more than just a physical territory. It can be “a sphere (an area or range over or within which someone or something acts, exists, or has influence or significance) of knowledge, influence, or activity.”
For example, a scientist might take offense at a non-scientist second-guessing his conclusions because the non-scientist doesn’t share the same data within the scientist’s intellectual domain (knowledge). Or a Governor might take action because the Federal government has stepped out of its Constitutional boundaries (an activity) and usurped a right that the Constitution allocates solely to a state.
The world is God’s domain; each person on this blue marble has their God-given domain to oversee whether they know and follow the One True God or not. That’s the nature of the Subdue and Rule Mandate. We all have it, even if we don’t recognize Who gave it to us.
Since the Subdue and Rule Mandate is about exercising control, control is how we mark our declared domain. (I want to make a joke about dogs here, but I’ll resist.) The clash comes when two or more people’s domains overlap or claim the same domain, and the fight for control erupts. You know, like when my wife and I are in our comfy bed, and the battle for control of the blanket goes back and forth all night. Why? Because I want the blanket to be bunched up on MY side of the bed domain, darn it!
The Lord’s ideal for each of us is to work within our own domains properly and to work cooperatively when we find ourselves working with another person in the same domain.
Satan’s ideal is for each of us to be tyrants within our domain and to Conquer and Dominate another person when we find ourselves nose-to-nose with them in the same domain. As you know, that gets ugly.
It’s not wrong to recognize whatever domain the Lord has given us to oversee. I like plants and have a variety of them on my front porch. As far as my wife is concerned, they’re in my domain, and I’m responsible for their care. Her benefit is she gets to enjoy them without any responsibility. However, if my wife began to unilaterally prune and throw out some of my darling little buddies, I would see her as infringing on my duties, encroaching on my domain, usurping my place as the gardener, and we would have words.
Early in our marriage, one of the ways I used to breach my wife’s domain was when she was making a meal. Since I had restaurant experience, I often “supervised” her food preparation skills purely out of love, you know (ahem). I would slowly edge my way into her workspace, stir a pot, chop some veggies, and strain the pasta until I had entirely taken over. She would end up sitting on the couch glaring at me for once again infringing, encroaching, and usurping her domain, the meal—mea culpa.
I should have recognized that, at that moment, the evening meal was in her domain because she enjoys cooking. I should have asked if she needed my help. If she said, “Yes,” she would have invited me into her domain, and we would have cooperated as I submitted myself to her direction. See? Two people harmoniously bringing the ingredients under control and stewarding them to a complete, and may I say, delicious, dinner.
So, the Lord has given each person a domain we call our life. What are we to do with our domain? We’re supposed to Subdue and Rule ourselves according to God’s character and will, bringing our bodies and souls under control and managing them in God’s way. The management part is what we learned in Genesis 2. We’re to cultivate (nurture) and care (guard against desecration) for our domain. We’re to mature spiritually by letting Jesus’ character and the Holy Spirit’s fruit grow within us (Galatians 5:22-23) and to guard our domain against corruption and enemy infiltration. Adam and Eve apparently did just fine on the first part but failed on the second. That’s the battle we face every day within our life’s domain.
Because we’ve received righteousness from God, demonstrated by how we obey Him, our spiritual side should take the lead in subduing and ruling our body and soul.
Think of this as a train with an engine, a passenger car, and a caboose. Before we’re born-again, our body is the engine dragging the train car (our soul) and the caboose (our dead-to-God spirit) down the tracks, turning onto any rail siding we desire.
When we’re transformed under the New Covenant by the Holy Spirit’s power, the Lord brings us to a complete stop and reassigns which part of us occupies which train position. After our spiritual resurrection and the inner changes start, the engine is now our spirit, pulling the passenger car of our mind/will/emotions with our bodily desires following as the caboose. This reassignment is how we begin exercising dominion over our main domain, ourselves. And to complete the train analogy, the Holy Spirit is the engineer who works with the engine (our spirits) to stoke the power and direct our forward motion.
So, for a moment, forget trying to subdue and rule the earthly domain for now. The first “earthly” domain we must work on with the Holy Spirit’s help is ourselves, created of the earth (adamah, remember?), to control and manage ourselves. Only then can we control or influence the domains we occupy the way the Lord wants us to.
“How the Lord wants.” Aye, there’s the rub. Without God’s boundaries, we fall into all sorts of Subdue and Rule behaviors that morph into an unrestrained Conquer and Dominate drive for dominion.
Since our transformation starts within us, it’s no surprise that our learning to Subdue and Rule begins internally with our thinking and character. This transformation is simple to understand but not easy to cooperate with because we fight against stinkin’ thinkin’, ingrained habits, and behaviors. The Lord wants us to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). Why the mind first? Because it’s easier to change our outward behavior if our mind is changed first and leading the way, just like in the train metaphor, and having the Holy Spirit as our engineer keeps us on track and not swerving off into train sidings. Essentially, the Holy Spirit helps us Subdue and Rule our thinking and will to align with our Heavenly Father’s thoughts and will (the “Do it My way,” Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis 2:16-17).
As our thoughts and will align with our Father, then Jesus’ character begins to grow, and the fruit of the Holy Spirit ripens within us. Paul gives us a sad list of ungodly behaviors in Galatians 5:19-21, “sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar.” These behaviors are just manifestations of our refusing to Subdue and Rule ourselves. But when the Holy Spirit comes alongside us, He helps us Subdue and Rule ourselves to counteract what produces those ungodly behaviors by creating “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Ta-da! There’s the “trains-formation” the Lord promises us. The Holy Spirit works with our spirit (the engine) to transform our minds and shape our character (the passenger car), followed by godly behavior via our bodies (the caboose). As long as we keep bringing ourselves under control and maintaining our Father’s way, we successfully Subdue and Rule our main domain.
But what if we aren’t saved or refuse to cooperate with the Lord and pursue our way instead? Then Subdue and Rule becomes Conquer and Dominate. We not only let our thoughts wander, we actively think about things we shouldn’t. We refuse to harness our will and use it to permit ourselves to do things our way, not God’s. We not only let our bodily desires lead us, but we also stoke the fires of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, our urges to enjoy, obtain, and achieve anything we want, as much as we want, any way we want, and everyone else be damned.
Because I’m the master of “My” domain!
For example, under godly Subdue and Rule, men and women keep their sexual relationship within a committed, exclusive marriage. A sexual relationship is supposed to be a mutual activity to express love in an intimate and pleasurable way. Just read the Song of Solomon if you want some pointers.
But the sexual relationship becomes exploitive, abusive, harmful, and selfish when Conquer and Dominate erupts. Rather than seeking to bless and benefit our partner, our partner becomes an object to be used for our pleasure if we regard the sexual relationship as part of OUR domain. Stop and observe our sex-driven society and tell me Conquer and Dominate doesn’t saturate most people’s sex drive. Why do you think pornography and perversions of sexual relationships and practices are rampant? Conquer and Dominate is inherently selfish and self-serving.
Paul perfectly described the unrestrained Conquer and Dominate lifestyle. “Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thoughts. They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more” (Ephesians 4:17-19, italics author). Again, do you see why it’s crucial that we Subdue and Rule our minds and hearts to align with our Heavenly Father?
The sad part is people go from abnormal to extreme if their Conquer and Dominate drive is not restrained and moved back to Subdue and Rule under the Spirit’s oversight.
Those who view pornography often relate that the subject matter they once viewed no longer stimulated them, so they pursued increasingly hard-core material. Notorious serial killer Ted Bundy testified how pornography moved him to act out his fantasies, leading to murder. It’s no secret that the vilest forms of sexual abuse and exploitation can be found on the internet’s pornography sites. Much of this material documents people using their God-given sex drive to Conquer and Dominate others for sexual gratification.
Speaking of our bodies, most of us are concerned about how we look and feel. Most of us are wise and prudent about covering our bodies appropriately and attractively. If we believe we’re over or underweight, we change the way we eat and exercise. If our hair gets too long, we cut and style it. Those pesky nose and ear hairs? Gone! Age spots? We have ointments to help fade those. In fact, there are a plethora of products to Subdue and Rule the effects of aging. Yes, Subdue and Rule applies to all these grooming processes. It’s how we use our Subdue and Rule drive to create and shape; create an impression by shaping our bodies or arranging our attire.
Except when it becomes a problem when Conquer and Dominate is unleashed.
For example, tattoos – okay or wrong? People disagree. But it gets interesting when we consider tattoos as more than a decoration, a memorial for a person or event, or a personal statement. What happens when tattooing becomes extreme in extent or application? Whole arm “sleeves,” complete body coverage, or tattooing private body parts and other sensitive or potentially dangerous areas like eyeballs. Is this art or a Conquer and Dominate manifestation of “taking control of one’s body?” When does tattooing cross the line from innocent to pathological?
Or what about related body modification practices like piercings, skin stretching, implants, etc.? I believe cosmetic surgery procedures are a tremendous help to many people. But when do cosmetic surgery and body modifications cross the line from a healthy aesthetic goal to a Conquer and Dominate-driven body dysmorphic disorder? When such modifications become extreme or life-controlling, people must ask themselves, “Why?”
Further, God commanded His people to honor gender differences via how they’re clothed. “A woman is not to wear male clothing, and a man is not to put on a woman’s garment, for everyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 22:5). Does that preclude kilts on Scottish men? Absolutely not, because that’s based on cultural norms. Cross-dressing, in a sinful sense, is deeper than the outward act. God’s command against cross-dressing is about inward motivations, why a man wants to dress like a woman, and vice versa. If it’s a Conquer and Dominate attempt to alter the perception or display of one’s God-given gender, then it’s out of God’s boundary.
An extreme form of cross-dressing today is the transgender movement, where gender dysmorphic people are driven to transform their bodies, not their minds. The transgender movement is fueled by Conquer and Dominate, driven by thoughts and feelings, unrestrained by God’s design or commands. Instead of asking the problematic “Why?” question, proponents of transgenderism ignore objective reality to create an alternate reality that is inherently and irrationally false. We can neuter a male dog, but that doesn’t make him female. So why do we think it’s different only for humans? Either gender reassignment works for all creatures, or it works for none. Furthermore, the term “gender reassignment” is irrational, as if a doctor is God who can transform the unalterable and create what doesn’t exist.
These are just a few examples that show us how far the absurdity and bizarre thinking of the Conquer and Dominate-driven mind goes.
When Conquer and Dominate controls our inner person, it will eventually manifest in our behavior. And as I’ve pointed out, it can drive us to make an indelible mark on the vessel in which we live, treating our bodies as MY domain to use or abuse as we see fit.
There are so many ways Subdue and Rule shows up as Conquer and Dominate in us and our perceived domain.
Why do we want things MY way, in MY time, and at MY convenience? Because we want to be in control.
Why do we regard our opinions as right and true and spend hours arguing on social media for our point of view? Because MY belief-based opinions are valid and yours are not, which is a form of intellectual Conquer and Dominate. The other person has waded into my intellectual domain, and they’ve become a threat to what I believe is true. And when faced with disagreement, many of us are tempted to flame or troll our opponent because if we can’t win the argument, we will destroy our opponent. Sadly, this behavior is aggravated by the anonymity of the online world.
Controlling our domain, preventing others from infringing, encroaching, or usurping our domain, and doing so in ungodly ways are all demonstrations of Conquer and Dominate.
All because we are the Masters of OUR domain, right?
But once we realize that we were meant to work side by side according to God’s character and rules, the whole battle over domains dies down to nothing. We recognize that we’re just humble servants working in our sphere of life. And when my domain overlaps with your domain, we choose to work together because Subduing and Ruling the task at hand is more important than the person.
That especially goes for driving, taking notes, and cooking a meal.
Trust me. I’ve been there.
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts
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