I love the pastor of my church, but two Sundays in a row he spoke of the inadequacy of the thought from the Beatles song ‘Love is all you need’.
His main point was that his love for his own children easily eclipses his love or awareness of other children.
Humanly speaking, this might seem obvious. But real love infused by a Divine perspective should cause us to see, reach– in fact live–far beyond the predictable, natural boundaries and definitions of love.
The irony of course, is that we expect to hear a Christian pastor speak of, and urge us to embrace, more of a Biblical and Divine perspective than justify our own personal, nearly instinctive biases.
The historical Christian insight is that love is, by definition, NOT self-referencial – and is inherently sacrificial.
In fact it woud be easy to make the point that our (unacknowledged and unrewarded) love for others is a working definition of our own faith.
The core of Christianity is the divine – and ultimate – sacrifice as an expression of Divine interventional love.
This love that costs everything and accomplishes everything is the one value that perhaps all faiths – and perhaps even those of no faith – all share.
From Hollywood movies, to friendship, to citizenship–and perhaps most of all with parenting–we all know that real love, the only love that matters, is the love that costs – costs everything in fact.
From “Finding Nemo” to Liam Neeson’s “Taken” series, pop culture reminds us that real love costs everything – and is in fact worth everything.
It is love, we often forget, that gives value to everything. It is love that gives us art and music, joy and despair, all pain and creativity. It would be far easier (and emptier) to go through life numb and uncaring.
We can be conceived without love, but we can rarely flourish and thrive without love.
We can exist without love, but it is love through belonging, identity and purpose that brings us into the fullness that only love can provide.
St. Paul reminds us (1 Corinthians 13) that without love we are a clanging bell in the wind, we are noise and litter. We are literally lost without love.
Love, Paul reminds us, is inherently kind, compassionate, generous and restorative. Love saves, protects and preserves.
If you study the New Testament, you’ll notice major differences between the the words of Paul and Jesus – but not in this area.
Jesus spoke of the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:38); to love God with our full strength, mind and heart. And to love our neighbor as ourselves – which also might mean to love their children as we love our own.
And perhaps even to respect their faith as deeply as we value our own.
The Book of John, usually the most philosophical and spiritual, puts it bluntly (1 John 4:8) God is love.
Love is who – and what – God is.
And that love is who and what we are.
Love is NOT all we need – it is far more than that: love is where we come from, it is where we belong and it is where we are going. It is where we find ourselves, it is where we lose ourselves and find something much greater.
Life, psychology and faith all agree that love is something learned, acquired and cultivated. It is precious beyond words.
Love is a language we all learn, though few of us fluently.
Love is the orchestra that plays and pauses in infinite harmony and counterpoint.
Love is the choir that sings in an unearthly, beautiful unified voice.
Love is the restorative reflection that pulls us beyond what we know, beyond what we currently are.
The orchestra conductor does not love one instrument over another.
The choir director does not privelige one voice over another.
It is the oneness, the fullness of the body, that brings us strength and beauty.
We forget that John 3:16 tells us that God loves the whole world – not this nation more than that nation.
True love stretches and heals, it doesn’t confine or isolate.
What have we become, after all, if we tolerate the trafficking, addiction, exploitation, neglect and incarceration of other people’s children?
I think we all know the answer to that question – and we all know that if God is just, our cowardice and hypocrisy, our unrelenting faith in our own comforts and complacency, is just another barometer of the emptiness and callousness of our souls.
Love–real love–is what we all need. In fact, it is all there is.