taking the words of Jesus seriously

One of my recently published books is entitled Choose Love Not Power.  It may be the most important book I have ever written.  It’s an updated version of a book I wrote years ago, entitled The Power Delusion.  A primary premise of the book is that in human relationships love and power stand diametrically opposed.

Consider a man who doesn’t love his wife, whereas his wife loves him intensely and will do anything to keep the relationship alive.  One has to ask of such a relationship, “who is in power?”  The answer is obvious.  He is in a position of power.  He can dictate the terms of the relationship because he doesn’t care whether his wife stays or leaves.  She, on the other hand, will do anything to keep the relationship alive.  Her love has made her vulnerable to exploitation.  Love always makes people vulnerable.  Certainly the love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ made God vulnerable.  This is what the second chapter of Philippians is trying to tell us.  Love diminishes the exercise of power.  Every sociologist knows this.

In my book, Choose Love Not Power, I explore the ways in which power plays are destructive in the life of the family, in the life of the church, and yes, even in the relationships between nations.  All too often, the United States, which is the greatest power on the face of the earth, fails to understand that its security is more dependent on the friends that it makes via love and service to those who are in need, than it is on the armies which it deploys.

We all know the expression, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, ” yet we do not consider the implications that that statement, made years ago by Edmund Burke, has for male chauvinists who want to dominate their families, or church leaders who want to dominate their churches, and for the United States which, in its power, may find its own destruction.  That scares me because I love America, but power does corrupt and we have not seen clearly what national power is doing to us.

Finally, the book relates to the fact that God has given up power in order to express His love.  Love always requires the giving up of power and in Philippians 2 we read about how God in Christ gave up power in order to express His love, which was ultimately expressed in the cross.  Jesus, who is God, could have exercised power and come down from the cross, but He didn’t do it.  Love drove Him to become vulnerable on Calvary’s tree.  He could have assumed power when Satan tempted Him and offered Him all the kingdoms of the world, but Jesus chose to save the world, not through the exercise of power, but through the exercise of His love.

In order to make us into free people—and only free people can love—He withdrew His power.  We have a God who deliberately limited Himself, as it says in Philippians 2.  Those of us who read that scripture do not realize that we should take it on face value.  God did empty Himself of power, as the scripture says, when He came in Jesus Christ.  This means that when an earthquake takes place in Haiti, we shouldn’t be saying, “Why didn’t God use His power to stop that from happening?”  The answer is obvious—He has limited Himself in the use of power in order to make room for free people who could, in freedom, choose to love Him and to love one another.

Without freedom, there is no love and God chose love over power for Him/Herself and for all of us.

About The Author


Tony Campolo is Professor of Sociology at Eastern University, and was formerly on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. For 40 years, he founded and led the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that created and supported programs serving needy communities in the Third World as well as in “at risk” neighborhoods across North America. More recently, Dr. Campolo has provided leadership for the Red Letter Christians movement. He blogs regularly at his own website. Tony and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia, and have two children and four grandchildren.

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