Love is a giving away of power. When we love, we give the other person the power in the relationship. They can do what they choose. They can do what they like with our love. They can reject it, they can accept it, they can step towards us in gratitude and appreciation.
Love is giving up control. It's surrendering the desire to control the other person. The love--love and controlling power over the other person--are mutually exclusive. If we are serious about loving someone, we have to surrender all of the desires within us to manipulate the relationship.
Rob Bell, sex god, p. 98
This closely echoes something mentioned a few weeks ago, from Chalke's and Mann's "the lost message of jesus"--this idea that love and power, or love and control, are somehow like the two ends of a set of scales or a see-saw.
And like then, we must ask, is what Bell is saying really true?
No doubt, we can point to instances when power or control have been abused. There is no denying that. But having acknowledged it, does that make it universal?
Like with Chalke and Mann, we can point to some examples. Do parent's who do not exercise authority over their children show that they love them more or less? If a parent warns a child about walking into the street just lets the child do it anyway, fearing to use any power or control for fear that it will somehow show less love for doing so, is that really showing love?
The context seems to deal God's love for man, and this becomes even more problematic than the love of parents for children.
Can we really say that God does not exercise power or control over people? I know that this is one of the more debated things out there, especially when it comes to the whole "predestination vs free will" debates. I have no dog in any such fight, but I don't need it for this topic.
We can look at the accound of the Exodus and Israel's wandering in the wilderness. Did God not lead them? Did God not show His power to them? Did God not provide for them? Did God not bless them? Did He not also punish them? Did He not give them laws, things they needed to obey? Even with one like Moses, with whom He seems to have had as close a relationship as with anyone else in the biblical accounts, does He not punish Him when he disobeyed? Did He not keep the whole of the people (save for two men and those under a certain age) from entering the Promised Land when they did not believe Him but doubted?
Did God love those people? Did He not free them from Eqypt? Why, then, these great and terrible acts of power and control concerning them? Why did He not just let them be, let them do their own thing? Why get in a tiff when they started worship a golden calf, or when they complained about His provisions, or when they doubted if they could take the land He'd promised to them? Why make such a big deal when Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it?
Abuses should not be used to soil legitimate exercises, though that is done far too much today. Pointing to parents who have abused their children is not really an argument against spanking, though some use it as such. Pointing to instances of husbands abusing their wives is not an argument against headship, though some use it as such. Instead, arguments against abuses are arguments against...well...abuses. A counterfeit $20 bill does not negate the existence of the real $20 bill; rather, it depends on the existence of the real to make it difficult to know the fake (a fake $3 bill would be easy to spot, because there is no real one).
The exercising of authority in relationships is something that certainly requires a lot of wisdom, and I don't think that simply saying "love and controlling power...are mutually exclusive" can really be said to be echoing reality. Things are too complex for that to hold up under careful consideration.
May we wonder why they seem so intent on making love and power polar opposites? If we take their formula, what does it do to our ideas of God? Does it say anything about their emphasizing God's love and de-emphasizing God's rules?