“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bear all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
July 7, 1967, the Beatles released their song “All You Need Is Love” in the UK, which was released three weeks later in the US. It became one of their many hits as well as one of the anthems of the “flower power” movement, the passive, non-violent protest of the Vietnam War. The lyrics are very simple—like, really simple:
“All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need”
The beat is a little odd (or at least it sounded so to me; my brain kept trying to process it in 4:4 time), but the song is pretty good. Of course, it has its share of musical critics who have complained that “All You Need Is Love” is too simple, too naïve, as if they knew/know what people need. Seems like to them, love is not enough, which I guess I can see why they might be right…
(…Don’t panic, fam. I’m not trippin’, so just hang tight.)
If one’s understanding and/or experience of love is that it is only an emotion, that it is a “crazy little thing” like Freddy Mercury once sang, then compared to all of life’s complexities it probably isn’t enough. It’s probably too small to take on big things like racism, sexism, prejudices, and fear. It’s probably too weak to tackle low self-esteem and self-worth. It’s probably too feeble to withstand the ebb and flow of trials and tribulations. Unfortunately, that human understanding is itself small and quite narrow.
Thank God for His divinely inspired Word, however, and the followship of the Apostle Paul to break down what love really is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Real love (better the one Mary J. Blige was searching for in the 90’s) is bigger, stronger, and steadier than anything we can ever encounter. Think about this:
- Patient – When was the last time we experienced true patience from someone while we were being absolute numb-chucks? Answer: every time. God loves us so much that He allows us opportunities to get our act together, so we can resume becoming the men and women He created us to be.
- Kind – Remember that moment when we had a chance to act on kindness and be helpful to someone and we weren’t, but the very next moment we received kindness we knew was undeserved? Yeah, that was the Lord, too.
- Not envious or boastful – Lord have mercy, that green eyed monster called envy can really be something, especially on Valentine’s Day. Real, true love is not stuck on who is or isn’t boo’d up. It’s certainly not braggadocios, either. The fact that we are loved unconditionally by an all-powerful, unchanging, eternal God leaves no room for coveting or wishing for what some others have. It’s humbling to know that our imperfections will never be enough to turn the Lord away from us. Fam, we are indeed good and loved, warts and all!
- Not irritable or resentful – The King James Version of this verse reads “…is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil”. True love (i.e., God’s love) doesn’t plot against those who cause it harm. It doesn’t look for payback, doesn’t subscribe to the Klingon philosophy of revenge being a dish best served cold. Instead, it makes room so that when we mess up (and that is a when, not an if), it provides correction and guides us back to right standing with God our Creator.
- Bear all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things – Allow me to put it this way: the true love of God doesn’t give up when the going gets tough, and doesn’t become cynical and merely exist without the hope of a new tomorrow.
Going by Paul’s explanation in his letter to the Corinthian church, I firmly stand by the Beatles’ chorus: a patient, kind, humble, non-resentful, bearing, hoping, and believing love is all we need. God’s perfect love is absolutely all we need. It has the power to heal any heart, transform any mind, and renew the right spirit in any person. It has the authority to cast down the strongholds of fear and hate. It has the strength to build anew broken relationships and fortify them in trust and truth. It has the compassion to give us chance after chance when even we wouldn’t.
It’s so easy, fam, it truly is. All we need is love, His love.
His love is all we need.
Prayer of thanksgiving: Thank You, Lord, for Your never-ending, unconditional, fantastic, powerful love. Thank You for the love that never fails and never gives up. Amen.