“All You Need Is Love” is a classic Beatles song from the sixties that was popular during the Vietnam era. The song asserts that “love is all we need,” but is it really that simple?
It’s easy to generalize love as a sentimental impulse or feeling when nobody understands what love is. People really don’t know how to love. Long ago, God defined love by teaching us what it should look like in a broken world, but we tend to be uncomfortable with specifics because it can be hard to accept details about what we should or shouldn’t do. It’s much easier to understand love in a way that makes sense to us, but we can’t separate love from the One who created and commands it. When we consider the definition of love given by Jesus, we see it has a cruciform shape. Jesus shows us what it means to really love, teaching us that we can’t let our sentimentalities overwhelm the concept of love.
If you’ve ever observed young people falling in love, you know how it changes them. It’s fascinating to behold the transformation. We respond similarly when we encounter God’s genuine love and allow it to transform us. Enduring love relationships change the way we think about love. Love is not the fuzzy butterflies we feel in our stomachs; it is the faithfulness and courageous commitment of remaining together through thick and thin. It includes accepting the obligations of a relationship while knowing that one is unconditionally loved by another. A good marriage builds the kind of love that each partner can respond to. It’s about learning to love correctly. That’s the kind of love we need.
Sometimes our understanding of love translates into tolerance and we end up promoting the opposite of the love we need. As N.T. Wright say’s “‘love… is not just distant appreciation. It is a warm sense of, “I am enjoying the fact that you are you.”’ We can be passive without love. We can even modify our behaviors to be kind and polite, but no love in the hearts of men and women is greater than that found in the heart of God. He invented love; He’s the source of it all. God’s compelling, beautiful, and unselfish love revealed in Christ is “love that moves the sun and other stars” (Dante, Paradiso, XXXIII, p. 142–145). It’s the love that moved Him to save us! That’s the kind of love we need. It’s God’s definition of love that matters.
God provides many details to help us understand the concept of love. While a sheet of music may contain many notes, only one song is sung from them. Unselfish love is that song. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, forgiveness are all specific notes, and we are free to follow these notes that God has composed, but Paul tells us that above all of these is love, which holds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:12-14). We must resonate with Christ’s love because in Him, all things are united.
We need to see love differently and respond to God’s compelling love that seeks to grab our hearts. God pulls us toward Him for loving communion, and once we realize this, we can see ourselves and one another as loved and valuable. When we are tempted to retaliate to a hostile world, we can therefore choose instead to follow that love. When we find people annoying, we can choose to see through the lens of God’s beautiful love. Instead of responding to hate with hate, we can choose His courageous love. God desires that we display the kind of love that ties all things together. Christ’s self-giving costly love is what unites all things in harmony. Christ’s love is what we need.
A world filled with broken and abused hearts is not a world experiencing love. A world of bombs and other weapons of mass destruction is not a world that understands love. A world with prejudice and racism is not a world focused on love. A world of hatred and revenge is not a world that knows love. A world of suffering is not a world of love. The only love that resonates through the vast universe, “moving the sun and other stars,” is Christ’s self-renouncing love. His love is powerful enough to hold everything together in perfect harmony. Many want to know this love, longing for it to be made clear so that their voices can be in tune with God’s magnificent orchestration. May we all resonate with the notes of Christ’s love because it is the song that most needs to be sung.
Craig Ashton Jr.