Power without love is prominent in bullies, but love without power is ineffectual
‘For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-control’ (2 Timothy 7).
These luscious words challenge the way we live because there has been a divorcing of power and love in society; we simply don’t believe they belong together.
The popular view of power is that it should not be constrained by niceties. In public life, strength is believed to be compromised by kindness, as if it is a weakness to think of others with sympathy. George Bernard Shaw took it a step further when he said: The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. Or as the old adage goes: to make an omelette you have to break a few eggs. There is no need for a connection with love because this would only inhibit power.
Love has been eviscerated of meaning and in public life has been reduced to the contemptuous label of do-gooding. It is a fuzzy notion confined to certain occupations, where the application of love is presumed to lead to harm as people take advantage of naivety. It is believed to have no traction in places where the real decisions are taken that move this world on.
Power without love is prominent in bullies, but love without power is ineffectual. The Holy Spirit’s gift to the world is the fusing of these two capacities: there is love in power and power in love. An authentic demonstration of the living presence of Christ is found in disciples who live powerfully and lovingly. We find it hard to imagine or embody this because of today’s divorcing, but the fusing of power and love is a distinctive feature of Christian faith.
It is the presence of self-control which is the key to the disciplined exercise of power and love yet this also is out of favour. Self-control is thought to be inhibiting, preventing people from expressing their true selves and allowing others to impose themselves instead. Yet we demonstrate love for ourselves and for others most faithfully in the exercise of self-control, for it is an acknowledgment of relationship: I can love you or I can harm you, depending on how disciplined I am.
Self-control constrains power when it is at risk of abuse and emboldens love when its voice is not heard. When power, love and self-control are blended in a disciple, it frees them from the fear which influences more of our lives and our choices than we care to admit.
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