power vs. love: the psychology of a man & his bride

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Thursday, December 4th, 2008

power vs. love: the psychology of a man & his bride

i am a subscriber/regular listener to tony campolo’s podcast, across the pond (here’s the itunes link). as i believe i’ve stated on the blog before, campolo is one of my top few favorite theologians/speakers/authors/etc.—bar none. his thoughts on a number of issues have really helped me to put shape to some of the things that i’ve been working through over the last 4 or 5 years.

today on the podcast, he finished up a lengthy series that took a close look at the lord’s prayer. it’s been a really intriguing look at the prayer, with many keen insights that i’ve never considered. in the final one, he looked at the closing line:
for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. amen.
specifically, his thoughts on the word power caught my attention.
he talked about a common psychological principal that supposes that power and love are inversely related. the idea is that, in relationships, whoever loves the most holds the least power. of course, the inverse would be that the person with the most power is the least loving. tony campolo suggests that in jesus’ ultimate act of love—dying on the cross—he inversely let go of the power that could have been available to him. jesus had every opportunity to call down angels or simply unleash power to halt the whole ordeal, but in order to show his greatest act of love, he reserved his power.
i couldn’t help but think about the analogy inherent in the husband/wife relationship. if you’ve been keeping up with the blog, i’ve talked a couple times here recently about my belief in egalitarian and reciprocal gender relationships. i’ve spoken, generally speaking, about the relationship of men and women within the church and specifically in the context of female church leadership, but my egalitarian beliefs are equally important in my marriage.
i don’t want to get into a big discussion here of the roots of words like submission or the like (although it is an interesting study), but in a broad sense, i want to look at the issue of power in marriage. typically, the husband is viewed as the “power person” in the relationship. again, not to get into too many semantics here, but it seems to me that the aforementioned inverse principal can be applied here. when we truly love (the way that “christ loved the church”) our spouse, we have little problem with surrendering our power. now, that doesn’t mean that the power shifts completely, thus placing the wife in the “power role.” it simply means that power is shared equally.
of course, maybe using the terms “shared power” is inappropriate, ultimately. when we truly love and give ourselves to our spouse, power is of little concern. certainly, there’s decision-making and leadership and areas of superior relational skills and task-parsing, but those things are accomplished through the inverse of power: love. just as jesus did.
one of the amazing and humbling points that campolo brought out in his discussion was jesus’ use of the word servant (in the context of serving others and god). the greek word doulos that he uses, and that modern translations present as “servants,” literally translates in the greek to slave. in the way that jesus uses doulos, it’s closely tied with the concept of self-giving love. so is the husband/wife relationship. jesus calls us to love and give ourselves so deeply and intimately and wholly, that we are to become slaves to our spouse. now, certainly, we can understand that the way we’re using the word slave here isn’t the degrading and brutal connotation in which we commonly think, but it’s to suggest the complete giving away of our very life and being to another person.
i am christen’s and christen is mine.
because of my deep love for her, i give away my power and myself to her. and she does likewise.
those are incredibly deep and powerful thoughts. so, go check out campolo’s podcast (or downloading some of his sermons or reading some of his books) and see listen for yourself.

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