The Power of Love vs. the Love of Power

Do you remember that inspirational sports story that made the rounds a few years ago? It was about a college softball game between two rivals. In the last inning, the team that was behind had 2 outs with their “power” hitter up and the game on the line. As fate and the softball gods would have it, the hitter hit a game winning home run … so she and everyone else thought. But, unfortunately she injured herself coming out of the batter’s box and couldn’t run around the bases, which the rules require in order for the home run to count. The rules also stipulated that her teammates were not allowed to help her around the bases. It looked as if the home run wouldn’t count, and the other team would win. 

That’s precisely when the Power of Love overcame the love of winning, and the players from the other team came out and helped the power hitter around the bases by lifting her up and carrying her. They carried her all the way around and then made sure she touched home plate, which the rule required. What the rules didn’t say anything about was the Power of Love. And on that day, at that game, Love defeated power, in the form of winning, and peace came to both teams and everyone who was there. It’s what Jimi Hendrix meant in his quote just above.

And before everyone left the park that day – players, coaches, parents, and spectators – they wondered: “Why can’t life be more like that?” 

Jesus wonders that too. If you’ve been in my study at church, you may have noticed the small water fountain that sits on the end table just as you come in the door. Sitting directly beneath the fountain, under the light that extends out, is a replica of Jesus in the Upper Room. No, He’s not at the Table feeding the Last Supper to His disciples. It’s a powerful moment of Love that occurred before the meal. As each disciple came in the door after a hot and dusty day in overcrowded Jerusalem, they found Jesus sitting there waiting for them, on His knees, with a rag for a towel, to clean the feet of each of His followers. 

Jesus literally could have all the Power in the world that He desired. But He knew that was not the answer to what ails the world. Jesus knew that “Power” – the seeking of it in all its forms (winning, domination, control, wealth, status, even surviving) – was not the remedy for what the world needed. He refused the temptations over and over to claim that power over the world and its people that He could have anytime. Instead, Jesus brought the power of something else more powerful than the lust of power itself. Jesus brought to us the Power of Love. It was a Love unlike the world had ever seen before. It was Divine. It defeats the raw thirst for worldly power every time, whether or not the world realizes it (and for the most part, the world still doesn’t get it). 

In the Upper Room on that fateful night with His disciples, Jesus taught them first the most important lesson – the Power of Love is what will change the world, and its people. So He showed them what that looked like, and told them to become foot washers instead of power seekers. And then he ate with them to teach them how Love will always win, even when it looks most unlikely. Like when Love conquers death.  

And you don’t have to take mine, or Jimi Hendrix’s, or Jesus’s word for it. Google is the ultimate source for everything worldly. If you look up “Power of Love,” it tells us that: 

“There is no greater power than love! Love has the ability to heal the world. Love is pure and decent, innocent and true. When the energy of love takes hold of you, resistance is futile. It has the capacity to heal old wounds and cleanse you of any negativity that does not serve you.”

The “Love” that Google is referring to is the “Power of Love” that Jesus brought to the world. It’s from a Divine source, God, and it tells us that the real Love is unconditional, all-forgiving and never-ending. It’s not just the kind of love that can turn injuries into miracles on a softball field and somehow erase the difference between winners and losers. It’s the same Love that can heal or make whole any part of your life that is suffering or broken. 

Think of life these days: How often does the “Love of Power” dominate in a relationship to such a degree that a marriage is unable to continue. How many times in our national politics is the common good shoved aside because the lust for Power is more important than winning for the citizens and not for the Party? How many families are hurting right now, today, because the need for each person, or one person, to have control and command over others becomes their personal mission? And how many of us, individuals trying to make our way day to day in the quiet desperation of our lives, have given up on the Power of Love to transform us and our lives into a power for good and decency and innocence and purity? 

Jesus can do all those things, for all those people, and more! That’s because, as Google says, “There is no greater power than love!” Jesus came to change the way we think about Love. His “agape” Love is not about loving People because they treat me well or loving things because they benefit me. Agape Love is about us becoming the selfless servant who washes the feet of the people in our lives, in any way that they may need. It’s also the power that inspires a softball team full of competitive women to forget about winning and instead transform what the game is all about to begin with – just another opportunity to show the love of Jesus. 

One of my favorite fundamentalist preachers and writers is Tony Campolo. My friend, Bruce Condill, recently shared a cassette tape (kids, ask your parents!) of a speech he gave in 1984 at George Fox University. In this speech, he tells the story of a renowned sociologist Willard Waller … by the way … he’s from Walla Walla, Washington. No kidding! He claims, and I agree, that Love and Power cannot be expressed at the same time. They are diametrically opposed to each other. And, in the end, the Power of Love will always defeat the Love of Power when Love is given the chance. Sadly, way too often, the Power of Love is never given the chance, because the love of power is what dominates in our daily lives. 

That’s why having Jesus in your life is so important. God alone is the source for this amazing life-changing world-saving love, and Jesus is the one who teaches us how to live that way. With Jesus, Love moves from being a noun to becoming a verb – Love Alive! And it can help you in every part of your life.  

If you don’t trust me, and you don’t trust Jimi Hendrix, and you don’t trust Google, then maybe you’ll trust Huey Lewis (“The Power of Love), or maybe The O’Jays (Love Train), or maybe Barbara Streisand (What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love), or, finally, maybe you’ll trust the Beatles (“All You Need is Love”). 

But, as for me today, I’ll trust Jesus! I prefer to look at all of the frontline doctors and nurses and first responders and grocery checkers and garbage collectors and mail deliverers and on and on, during these dangerous times of COVID-19, and I’ll see Jesus at work – those selfless sacrificial servants – who are living out His last commandment from the Upper Room, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) Jesus also said that there’s no greater Love than that of one putting their life on the line for another.

If we can just trust the Power of Love instead of the love of power, then the whole world can be changed. And yes, you might lose a few more games, or you might take some illogical risks, but you’ll never forget the miracles! That’s the Power of Love! 

Peace … and Love!

Pastor Bob