All You Need Is Love — Morning Devotions - Hope 103.2

All You Need Is Love — Morning Devotions

The famous song lyrics - 'All you need is love' - is a fair expression to make. The Bible speaks of the power of love constantly.

By Chris WittsWednesday 15 Nov 2023Morning Devotions with Chris WittsFaithReading Time: 1 minute

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In 1969 John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote one of the most popular of all the Beatles’ tunes. The title was “All You Need Is Love.” Like many other songs about the same subject, their lyrics emphasized the simple, basic nature of love and thought of it as the solution to the world’s troubles. There is, seemingly, nothing particularly deep about the words.  In fact, most of them consist of the title, or a variation thereof, repeated some 35 times throughout the course of the song. “Love is all you need.” 

The Beatles were, obviously, not the first to use this theme. The world of music, poetry, and literature is filled with similar sentiments throughout the history of humankind.  It continues today, perhaps now more than ever. The theme is about emotion.  It is about feeling.  It is about sentiment.  One of the ways in which it is defined is contained in the lyrics of another song that some of you may remember being sung by Nat King Cole “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return.” Isn’t that what we hope for when we think about, when we yearn for love.

Bible reading – JOHN 15:9-17

In hearing Jesus’ words, and given our own cultural background, our first inclination is to think that he is speaking about that same kind of emotion and that same mutual sharing of care and affection. But as we listen carefully to Jesus’ words, they point us to something even more involved and more challenging. Jesus is not telling us simply to love other people as they love us. That is generally pretty easy for anyone to do. It is simply the coming together of like-minded people who love each other for what they get in exchange. Jesus, rather, was calling people to a new and radical vision of what love can be, what God’s love is meant to be in this world. “Love one another,” he tells his disciples, he tells us-not as they love you, but “as I have loved you.” And how has Jesus loved us? Not with a love that we have earned. Not because of who we are. Not because of what we have achieved.  Not out of his own self-need.

Not out of hope of reward or even being loved in return. Jesus loves us because love is at the core of his being. Love is what he is, and what he is all about. His love is the perfect love out of which the world was created, the love without limits, the love through which he lays down his own life in order that we may live. Lennon and McCartney may well have been right that “all we need is love,” but it involves considerably more than what those simple words and melody usually suggest.

To love others in the way that Christ loves us is the challenge of our lifetime. It is the Great Commandment above all others. It is as broad in scope as the witness of Jesus before the whole world. But as much as we speak of it in its universal and broadly general terms, it is most especially about the specific, particular moments and people of our life. It lies, at its heart, in the individual, deeply personal love with which he has filled every living human being, the love he has for each one of us.  Mother Teresa, the great modern saint who spent her life caring for “the poorest of the poor” in Calcutta, once reflected on the origins of her own ministry with the homeless, the diseased, the victims of starvation, neglect, and deprivation.

“I never look at the masses as my responsibility,” she said. “I look only at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. Just one, one, one. You get closer to Christ,” she continued,” by coming closer to each other. As Jesus said, ‘Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.’ So you begin. . . I begin. I picked up one person-maybe if I didn’t pick up one person, I wouldn’t have picked up the others. The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if we don’t put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less. . . Just begin. . . one, one, one.” Christian love begins, indeed, with the individual, the one.

It exists, not just among people, but between persons. And just as Christ’s love for each of us is the basis for our love of others, so our love for others is the prerequisite for our love of God. In the first Letter of John we read some of the most striking and direct words in all of Scripture: “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” Christian love is based, not on a dream of some far-off future world of harmony and peace, but on the day-to-day experience of each of us, discovering and growing into Christ’s love by learning to share that love fully and completely with each other.

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I recently read the true story of a Presbyterian pastor in Ohio who had prepared a sermon one Sunday based on John 15: 9-17. As the congregation stared back, he simply said, “Love one another.” Then he walked back to his seat and sat down. The people in the pews were stunned and stared at him in complete bewilderment. After a few moments, the pastor got up and walked back to the pulpit, looked out, and said once more, “Love one another.” Again, he returned to his seat. Now people began to look at each other, raise their eyebrows, and wonder what to do next. Then the pastor got up and did it a third time. “Love one another,” he said and then sat down again.

Breaking through the stunned silence, a man in the congregation stood up and said, “I think I understand what our pastor is talking about.  He is asking me to love you,” he said, pointing to a family in the pew next to his. “But how can I love you when I do not even know who you are?” He then went over and introduced himself to the people and began to talk quietly with them, trying to discover what he could about them in order to find out how to begin loving them. Then a woman stood up and said, “I think I see what the pastor is saying. He wants me to love Jane over there, but how can I love her when I still hold a grudge against her for something that happened three years ago?” Then she got up and went over to Jane, and the two apologized to each other and began a process of reconciliation.  After that, amazing things began to happen one right after another. People began to mingle with each other, talk to each other, and find out what they could do to show and share the love of Christ. A couple that had brought their small child to the city to seek medical attention didn’t have enough money to return home; so, someone bought them a bus ticket. A young man, desperately searching for a job, was introduced to someone looking for help.  Throughout the rest of the morning and after the service, person after person came to discover new relationships, new opportunities, and new avenues through which to offer love, compassion, support, and kindness to each other and, in increasingly strong and compassionate outreach, to the community beyond.  “Love one another.” After that three-word sermon, the congregation was never again the same.