Love, Sex & the Misguided Pursuit of Power
During the first year of our marriage Sue and I had a disagreement and neither of us was willing to yield any ground. Being young and assuming that I, as the man, held the reins of “power” in the relationship, I went to prayer asking God to help this woman understand her responsibility to submit to my leadership, i.e., to do it my way.
As I prayed in this manner, Paul’s exhortation for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church suddenly stood before me with the words and gave Himself up for her seemingly highlighted in bold letters (Eph. 5:25). As I pondered this, I heard the Holy Spirit speak in my heart, “The problem is, that you are not willing to let go of yourself.”
That was devastating for I suddenly realized that it was my “I” or ego that was standing in the way of resolution and peace. I knew that I would have to die to the selfish desire to have it my way and be in control. That was the day that I began to learn that love and power, like oil and water, do not mix.
Love & Power Do Not Mix
The well-known sociologist, Willard Waller, discovered that there seems to be an inverse relationship between love and power. He noted that in interpersonal relationships as love increases, power decreases; and as power decreases, love increases. Waller coined the term “principle of least interest” to describe this phenomenon, revealed by his studies, that power lies in the hands of the person who cares the least about the relationship. Love and power, it seems, are incompatible, at least in this world.
In counselling, therefore, it is easy to see who is the guilty one, or the fearful one, by noting the one who seeks to exercise the power. The one who wants to control and dictate the terms of the relationship is the one who loves the least.
Take, for example, a husband and wife who seek counsel for their marriage that is on the rocks. He makes demands and seeks to dictate the terms of the marriage. She, on the other hand, is willing to make any sacrifice for the relationship to succeed. Which one is walking in love? The answer is obvious when we realize that love and power do not mix.
This ungodly pursuit of power is known as "abuse," and the guilty party can be the woman as well as the man. It's just that the church has given theological justification for the man to pursue such power, but not the woman. That is why it was important that in the first year of my marriage (it will be 39 years this month), I learned that it is impossible to love someone and at the same time seek power and control over them.
Sex, Love & Power
Sigmund Freud believed that all human behavior is sexually motivated and he interpreted all of life within that context. Friedrich Nietzche saw it differently and argued that the basic driving force in human beings is what he called “the will to power.” He thought that most of what goes on in the world, even sexually, is about people seeking to exercise power and control over others.
I think Nietzche had a point. I have heard ungodly men boast about their sexual exploits; like basketball Hall of Famer, Wilt Chamberlain, who boasted that he had slept with over 20,000 women. Don’t tell me that is about love, or even sex! It is about conquest and ego. It is about exercising power and control.
The feminists are thus right when they argue that rape is more about power than about sex. It is about the psychological gratification that comes from being in a position of power and forcing someone into the ultimate submission. It is a pursuit of power; and there can never be love where there is power and control.
Jesus Let Go of Power
This helps explain why, in the Incarnation, Jesus let go of the power He had eternally known with the Father (Philippians 2:7). In the Old Testament He had shown His power, thundering fire and brimstone from heaven, parting seas and wiping out entire armies. But when it came time to reveal His love to humanity, He laid aside His power.
Instead of being born in a place of power–a castle, palace or cathedral--He was born in a lowly stable to a poor family who offered up two doves or two young pigeons in the temple, an alternative offering allowed by Scripture for poor families who could not afford a lamb (Lev. 12:8; Luke 2:22-24).
He grew up in in Nazareth, an insignificant and despised village, well away from the power centers of Jerusalem, Caesarea and Rome. When He began His ministry at the age of thirty, He did not seek either power or approval from the civil and religious institutions of His day.
He ended his life in a place of ultimate weakness, suffering a slow and agonizing death nailed to a Roman cross. This point of human weakness and vulnerability was the ultimate demonstration of God’s love for humanity. It is also the place where God chose to release His mighty saving power, making His free offer of salvation available for every person.
That love and power are incompatible also explains why, again and again, Jesus directed his disciples away from visions of “power” to thoughts of “service” in regards to His kingdom. When James and John, for example, requested the two most prominent seats in His kingdom, Jesus rebuked them for their preoccupation with “power” and told them they were thinking like Gentiles, i.e., like people who did not know God.
He then presented to them a new and radical model of leadership that would be characterized, He said, not by power, but by humble service (Mark 10:35-45). They must have been shocked when He told them they were to function as diakonoi, a Greek word meaning “servant,” with no connotations of status, importance or power. In other words, he forbade them to pursue power.
Pursuits of Power in the Church
In spite of the example and words of Jesus, pursuits of power continued in the church right down to the present time. I recall sitting on the platform with other faculty members and leaders of the Institute where I taught courses in Bible and Theology. It was a Day of Prayer and as I quietly prayed I was drawn to observe the height of the platform on which we sat and how high we were above those seated in the auditorium. As I sat there with this strange awareness of how high we were seated, I heard the Holy Spirit speak in my heart, “You need to come down off your thrones.”
Unbeknownst to me there were, at that very moment, individuals on that platform who were secretly plotting to oust the leadership that had founded that ministry and led it, at great sacrifice, for more than fifty years. The ouster failed but caused much hurt and painful separation. I now realize that “Come down off your thrones” was a timely word, not only for that situation, but for the church and its leaders everywhere. It was a word that pursuits of power must stop in His church.
America’s Founders Rejected “Power”
America’s Founding Fathers, who held a Christian worldview about fallen humanity, distrusted power, even in the hands of Christians. That is why they divided the powers of government into three branches; the executive, the legislative (with two branches) and the judiciary. They wanted to make it difficult for any one person or group of persons to gain too much power in the nation they were forming. They would agree with Sir John Dalberg-Acton who said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
They were so intent on keeping power out of the hands of any one person that they not only divided the powers of government, but in Section 9 of the Constitution, they forbade the American government from granting honorific titles of nobility to anyone and forbade anyone holding a government office from accepting a title or office from a foreign king or state without the consent of Congress. (the church could take a lesson here)
The Founders envisioned a nation in which people governed themselves from within according to Christian principles of morality, particularly the teachings of Jesus. This is what Thomas Jefferson, the chief architect of the Declaration of Independence, had in mind when he said, “Of all the systems of morality that have come under my observations, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus.” James Madison, the chief architect of the Constitution, put it like this;
We have staked the whole future of the American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future . . . upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves.
How things have changed! Governmental power and control is now seen by many as the answer for everything. Pursuits of power are ripping our nation apart. Politicians are grasping for power; but so are Christian leaders who see power as the answer.
The Bible, however, is clear. If we humble ourselves God will lift us up (I Peter 5:6). If we humble ourselves He will heal our land (II Chrn. 7:14). We will change America, not by gaining political power in the next election, but by boldly confronting our generation with truth spoken and lived out in the love of Christ.
This article is derived from Eddie Hyatt’s latest book, PURSUING POWER: How the Quest for Apostolic Authority & Control Has Divided and Damaged the Church, which can be purchased from Amazon or from his website at http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html