Love is Power
I learned something new a few months ago. It came as I did my daily morning check in on a website. At that particular moment, I was ready to get some thoughts down to share with others. (That it is four weeks later, and I am finally returning to these thoughts, is another issue.) Back in January I read an article that reminded me of how we see power as a nation, compared to how we see power as people of faith.
As a person of faith, I am called to see and understand power through a very different lens. I should see power differently than our nation and our western culture sees power. The world sees power in terms of a dynamic of control. Power allows one to dictate, direct, to enforce one’s will. In the world view, power is usually one-sided... or at least one side has an advantage over the other side, in terms of power.
As a Christian, and especially as a man of faith, my example of power rests not in force, but in the person of Jesus. Jesus was unique – he had all the power in the world, and he could use it when and if he wanted to. In moments of need, like when he was being arrested or led to the cross, he could have called down legions of angels. It would have been “story over” for the Romans or for the Jewish religious authorities. At other times Jesus did demonstrate great power. But it was a power used for good, for healing, for restoration, for bringing wholeness.
On Friday, January 19, the United Nations passed the Treaty on Nuclear Weapons. The world's governing body elevated peace, unity and cooperation over and above power and force. The treaty declared “the manufacture, possession, use or threat to use nuclear weapons is illegal under international law”. Their action presents power in a different way. 75 years after a nuclear bomb was first used, the U.N. declared that there is no longer a place in their world for such weapons. And yet there are still almost 14,000 nuclear weapons around the world. Not all of the world’s nations signed the treaty. Some nations still see these weapons as a way to exert power over those whom they have disagreements. Hope remains though, because for the U.N. as a whole, power now rests in the process of making peace, seeking cooperation, and working toward compromise.
In the scriptures I see Jesus modeling this same understanding of power. For Jesus, and for all of his followers, power is not about dictating or forcing one’s way. It is not about being right while all others are wrong. It is not about “us” versus “them”. Jesus’ understanding of power was seated in his understanding of love. Power, for Jesus, was guided by love. Love offers grace. Love brings hope. Love conquers all. Love gives life. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love wins.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
If you want to test which method is holy, just and good, then I invite you to try an experiment. To see whether practicing Christian love or wielding worldly power is truly best, first spend a week dominating, lording over, forcing your way... with your wife or husband, with your significant other, with your friends, with your children, or with your boss. Then spend a week allowing love to guide all you do and say, just as Jesus modeled for us. Try giving out an extra dose of love, kindness, grace, mercy, forgiveness. Compare the two and decide which is the better way. Which is the best path to walk in this life. I believe that after these two weeks, you will choose to love as Jesus loves because love is power.
In John 13: 34-35, Jesus said to his disciples, “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” Jesus did not use any word more often than “love” to describe discipleship. As we consider the power we have and the ways we choose to employ that power, may we first consider our faith. In all of our responses to others, may love be our first filter. May we seek to practice love over power by following the example of Jesus.