What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No not just for some but for everyone – Hal David
Hal David used an additional line in his “prayer” to intensify his point that “the world needs love.” The song continues, “Lord, we don’t need another mountain.” Rather, we just need more “sweet love.”
As I listened again to David’s lyrics wafting sadly on the wings of Bacharach’s music, I began to wonder: Is the world’s problem really that it has too little love? Or, could it be that there is plenty of love, but many of us have been seeking a lesser love and looking for it in the wrong places? The answer from the Bible is “yes.”
But, while God’s sweet love is abundantly available, the world continues to plead for more
“love, sweet love” while looking for it where it cannot be found. Nathanael Blake, in , addresses the concern of many today who realize the inability of material pursuits to substitute for “sweet love.” He laments[JS1] :
…the symptoms of civilizational despair are persistent and worsening. The doleful litany is familiar: Fertility and life expectancy are down; suicides are up; overdose deaths are way up…deaths from alcohol abuse are up. The comforts of modern life have not made us happy, even as material comforts that were once exclusive to the rich have become the norm. Never before in human history have so many, with so much, been so miserable. Nor has sexual liberation, the last, best hope for materialist pleasure, brought general happiness. …widespread sexual indulgence has left our culture so far from sexual bliss that even The New York Times is running columns lamenting our sexual dystopia.
It seems that Western culture can achieve every goal set before it except to agree upon what is truly satisfying and enduring. As social beings, our relational, vocational, recreational, and spiritual lives are incomplete unless we achieve satisfying relationships with others and with God. We long for assurance and security that can only come from a deeper well than our buckets will reach. And so, many continue to look for love, meaning, and purpose in vain. Our frustration from this vain pursuit may explain recent political division and unrest.
Blake suggests that our anxiety over unsatisfied wants is at least partly the cause of the growing percentage of the American electorate who are infatuated with socialism. However, he notes that expanding government programs are not the answer because prophets, philosophers, and preachers throughout the ages have reminded us, happiness does not consist of the satisfaction of our material desires, for they will never be satisfied. Desire expands to fill the imagination’s capacity.
We can also provide an account of human flourishing that explains why happiness and heartbreak are linked. Happiness requires accepting our mortality, but our culture sanitizes and cordons-off death and neglects the philosophical and religious reflection that reconciles us to death and prepares us for it. What our culture needs—recognition of the realities of human nature, the instilling of self-control, living with love and charity in community, and offering hope for the hereafter—is what churches should be preaching and, more importantly, exemplifying.
Unfortunately, we frequently fail in these things (I very much include myself in this indictment), and we will have little to offer an unhappy culture if we are anxious, defensive, and hateful toward our political and cultural opponents. If we do not want those we disagree with to be happy; if we do not model a life of joy for them, why should they bother to listen to us?
The Life and teachings of Jesus as recorded in our New Testament left an unmistakable mark on Christ-followers of the first-century church as described in the Book of Acts. When the Roman Emperor Hadrian sent a man named Aristides to spy upon the Christians, his report to the Emperor contained these words, "Behold! How they love one another." The power of Christ’s love among first century Christ-followers was the key to the rapid spread of the “Good News” of .
Like our world today, the Roman world of the first century was hungry for “love, sweet love”—that ‘greater love’ that comes from God through the “Love Gift” of His Son, Jesus Christ. In our world where many of us are materially rich but many are also anxious, unfulfilled, and in despair, may we who have God’s love be committed to express His love and lovingkindness (mercy) where it is so badly needed. Perhaps the lyrics of by Casting Crowns describes our marching orders as redeemed sinners called to love lost sinners:
Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth's become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they're tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I'm so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours
Coming Next: In “LOVE: Part 2 – Lavished through Our Actions” I want to consider how love is defined and shared through our actions.