Todd and Maggie had a big fight and broke up. Todd, like always, hadn’t been treating her very well, and Maggie told him she wanted to call it quits. Todd wanted to get back together, but he wasn’t about to apologize, so he tried a different tactic. He asked out Ellen, Maggie’s good friend, who had always wanted to go out with Todd. Todd and Ellen went out several times, and Ellen was on cloud nine. All her dreams were coming true, and she was sure they would be together forever. Todd however, was just using Ellen to make Maggie jealous. It was starting to work, he thought, and it wouldn’t be long and he would dump Ellen, and he’d be back with Maggie. Todd did not treat Ellen any better than he treated Maggie. He’d pick her up late, ignore her when around others, and would often lie to her. But Ellen really did like him and wanted to make the relationship work. So she would put up with the rudeness, make excuses for him, and told her friends he would surely change as time went on.
The relationship between Todd and Ellen illustrates a principal of human interaction which college professor and Baptist preacher Tony Campolo describes like this: “The person in a relationship who loves the least, oftentimes has the most power; and the person who loves the most in a relationship oftentimes has the least power.” Who controls the relationship between Todd and Ellen? Todd does. He has the power, and he can do what he wants, because he doesn’t care. He doesn’t love Ellen at all. Ellen on the other hand, loves Todd very much, and that puts her in a position of weakness. She puts up with everything, because in her love she sees Todd in the best possible light, and she does not want that love to be disappointed. Of course, this isn’t all there is to say on the subject. Relationships are complex and there are always many things going on all at once. Other variables might include differing personality types, temperaments, and personal moralities. And so Campolo says this is oftentimes the case, but it is never the whole story and certainly not how it should be. But it is true to say that oftentimes “the person who loves the least in a relationship has the most power.”
Let’s apply this insight to the events of Holy Week. Jesus, admired by many, but hated by a few, rode into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday and was greeted as a hero by those who admired him. But Jerusalem was the center of the nation’s religious and political power, and, it was those in power who were opposed to Jesus. Jesus also had power. He was the Son of God. Legions of angels could have come to his aid at anytime. So it was not a matter of who had power and who did not. Rather, it was a matter of who would choose to use their power, and how, and for what purpose. So who loved the most in this situation? Jesus did, of course, and that love put him in a position of weakness. He chose to love, and chose not to exercise his power– and you know what happened.
That is not the whole story; it is not the whole story of Holy Week, and this is not all that psychology has to say about power. Much more needs to be said. First of all, most relationships should not be about power at all. Hopefully, Ellen and Maggie will wake up, and both stay away from Todd until he figures out how to treat a lady with respect and kindness. Power should not be the primary aspect of a dating relationship, and certainly not a marriage relationship. People will disagree, and differences need to be worked out, but there are ways to do that without the use of power, such as discussion, persuasion, and compromise. So yes, the one who loves the least may oftentimes have the most power in a relationship, but both should be striving to love and not exert power. And in that first Holy Week there was much more going on than which side would win by using the most power. On the surface, by late Friday afternoon it looked like the powers that were against Jesus had won. The high priest used all the earthly power at his disposal to arrange for the arrest, trial, conviction, and execution of Jesus; and he won. Jesus was dead. But there was more going on behind the scenes. (continued…)
Mark 8:31 — (Jesus) then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.
Hebrews 12:2-3 — Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen. —Book of Common Prayer