A Theology Of Teamwork

My friend Annie is one of those people who can keep you spellbound on her every word. Author of two tiny but incredibly profound books about the mathematics God’s embedded throughout the universe, she never ceases to amaze me by digging out hidden truths from the Word.Anne Hamilton

Recently she’s been doing a study on the concept of submission as expressed in the Scripture. (I saw that shudder!) I’ll have to take some shortcuts – she would explain it fully, I can’t quite yet – but this is the gist of it. It’s revolutionary.

The New Testament was written by Jewish people in street Greek. Both Hebrew and Greek are languages rich in nuance, and not immediately equivalent to English; and they’re quite different to one another as well. More importantly, Jewish thought tends to be holistic (all things in life interlinked), while Greek thought tends to be dualist (the physical divorced from the spiritual).

The Greek word translated “submit” is hupotasso (to subordinate/subdue), while the Hebrew word that would have come more naturally to the Apostles is the word nasa(to lift) rather than anah (to depress). This word nasa has the same root as the title Jehovah Nissi – “the Lord is my banner”. It has all the connotations of serving under a leader’s standard, of bearing His name, being on His team. In fact, the most interesting use of this word is in the composite nasa k-liy, “armour-bearer”, and it also hints atnasak, “dawnlight”.

The armour-bearer in Biblical times was the one who stood at the king’s side, carried his gear, and was covenantly responsible for keeping him alive (which is why Saul’s armour-bearer refused to assist in his suicide, and David, who once held the same post, never assassinated Saul despite holding the destiny of the kingship). According to one source, “Armour-bearers were aides chosen by kings and high-ranking military commanders for their bravery (they were at least as brave as those they served) and loyalty. As their name indicates, they did bear armour, but they were usually much more – roughly equivalent to modern-day adjutants or aides-de-camp.”

So the crux is this: if there had been a Greek word that would have accurately equated to nasa … would they have ever been forced to use hupotasso? The links betweennasa and other words used throughout Ephesians (I haven’t quite got my head around this, but it makes sense when Annie explains it) apparently suggest nasa as the concept of choice.

Look at the richness of the word:
A primitive root; to lift, in a great variety of applications, literally and figuratively, absolutely and relatively: – accept, advance, arise, (able to, [armour], suffer to) bear (-er, up), bring (forth), burn, carry (away), cast, contain, desire, ease, exact, exalt (self), extol, fetch, forgive, furnish, further, give, go on, help, high, hold up, honourable (+ man), lade, lay, lift (self) up, lofty, marry, magnify, X needs, obtain, pardon, raise (up), receive, regard, respect, set (up), spare, stir up, + swear, take (away, up), X utterly, wear, yield.

You get a 3-D picture of a person who brings out the best in you, lifts you up when you’re down, bears you up, carries your burdens, loves you, encourages you … a full partner. The only reason I can think of why this word would ever be translated “submit” is the “sub” prefix – the one who lifts or bears up is necessarily the one underneath.

What’s exciting about this is the application. Look at the passage in Ephesians 5:

“Do not be drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery; instead, being filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”

There are two fields here which are turned on their heads by the idea of overriding the Greek “hupotasso” with the Hebrew “nasa”. Obviously, marriage. If wives are to be their husband’s armour-bearers, that is a completely different picture to the idea that the husband keeps the wife under his thumb. For starters, what man wouldn’t want an armour-bearer for a partner? And the role is uniquely appealing to the nurturing instinct of many women. We’re not talking about the woman carrying all the man’s baggage; we’re talking about her being the other side of his coin in both courage and destiny. I like the idea of the woman and the man, back to back as a team with their guns at the ready … I’ve got your back, man.

There’s also the verse elsewhere which talks about the necessity of “submitting” to governing authorities, which has a whole fascinating ball of wax involving social justice in terms of practical assistance in our communities, if we are to be the armour-bearers of our local officials. We are to hand them the tools necessary to promote great society.

But what actually excites me about this at the moment is its application in a church band.

This passage in Ephesians seems to be telling us that, as members serving on the same team, we are to be one another’s armour-bearers in music. To bring out the best in each other, to spur each other on in creativity, to have one another’s backs, to uplift. This team dynamic that we are always hopeful of, but not always reaching, is something laid out plainly in Scripture yet again – this time in a specifically musical context – for us to follow: speaking to one another with songs … singing aloud and mentally composing … bearing one another up as full partners out of reverence for Christ. In the words of Jonathan’s armour-bearer: “GO FOR IT – I am with you heart and soul!”

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