Why we choose power over love.

April 9, 2007 at 2:28 pm 2 comments

Back from a brief respite on the holy ground that is Trinity Fellowship in Oklahoma, it is tempting to fall back into the depressive atmosphere that tends to find me back here in Washington.  It is not Washington’s fault and it says more about me than it does any location, so it’s something I need to deal with and live above.  Reading and writing seems to help me, so thanks for reading.

Do you ever read books that belong to someone else and find yourself only reading the parts that they underline or highlight?  Saves a lot of time and tells you alot about the person who read before you.

I was re-reading Henri Nouwen’s hard hitting and motivating little book “In the Name of Jesus” and came across this quote highlighted by that last reader.  You cannot miss the import of the quote for our churches, our relationships, our world.

What makes the temptation of power so seemingly irresistible?  Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love.  It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life.

When I was in Oklahoma a woman who I hardly know said this to me:  “You are afraid that if we get to know you we won’t like you.  I don’t know you very well but I already like who you are”.

I don’t know how she knew that I suffer from chronic fear of being discovered as not nearly as cool, intelligent or capable as I want to be.  But she was saying “I will choose to love you as you are and whatever we are to be together will be just fine”.  It was so freeing for me.

When we fear intimacy, fear exposure, fear discovery (even if we have nothing to fear) we settle for control, intimidation, manipulation, power trips, being cool, withdrawal, never laughing with abandon, ridding ourselves of all who we think are in competition for the praise we crave, and other attempts to hide our insecurities. (Resist the temptation here to think of those you know who fit this description, we each fit it in some way.)

Jesus asks, ” Do you love me?”  We ask, ” Can we sit at your right hand and your left hand in the Kingdom?” (Matthew 20:21)  Ever since the snake said, “The day you eat of this tree your eyes will be open and you will be like gods, knowing good from evil” (Genesis 3:5), we have been tempted to replace love with power.  Jesus lived that temptation in the most agonizing way from the desert to the cross.  The long painful history of the church is the history of people ever and again tempted to choose power over love, control over the cross, being a leader over being led.

If you have been through this sad fracture with us over the last 18 months you know that all parties involved have succumbed to this temptation over and over again.

Nouwen concludes: One thing is clear to me: The temptation of power is greatest when intimacy is a threat.  Much Christian leadership is exercised by people who do not know how to develop healthy, intimate relationships and have opted for power or control instead.  Many Christian empire-builders have been people unable to give and receive love.

Is there a way through the break in the Family there is in this community and other Christian communities around the world?  The only answer is love, true love, true forgivness.  There is no true forgiveness that is not accompanied by active love.  There is no true love without active forgiveness.

Is there? 


Entry filed under: Christianity, Church, Faith, Friendship, Jesus, Thoughts.

Resurrection Sunday. Fifteen thousand.

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dennis Teague  |  April 10, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    I want power and love. Not the power of man that controls and manipulates, but the kind that, when experienced, not only builds my faith but flows through me to the benefit of others. Holy Power causes a huge praise to the Lord and humbles me, so that I can receive the grace to love the unlovely.

  • 2. johnzwart  |  April 10, 2007 at 10:52 am

    Great post. The only thing I’m not sure about is the last idea. I think you are probably right in suggesting there is no true forgiveness that is not accompanied by active love; but to reverse those and say that there is no true love without forgiveness – well…I’m not sure about that one. Is love not a much bigger and all encompassing thing than forgiveness? Or are they opposite sides of the same coin? Is it possible to Love in a context where a need for forgiveness is not particularly necessary? Or is forgiveness always a precursor to Love? I’m probably splitting hairs here. And certainly I don’t want to detract from a very thoughtful post. Just asking the questions as a response to your question. In any case, thanks for writing. Keep it up. I really appreciate your reflections.

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