The year was 1967. Our country, and the world for that matter, was going through philosophical turmoil. Racial tensions were high and the white hippie movement was in full swing. Flower power was the mantra of many. The Vietnam War was raging and many lives had been lost. In just three short years, Edwin Starr would ask that infamous question: “War…what is it good for?”
But in the summer of ’67, the Beatles debuted a song that was heard around the world. “All You Need is Love” was Britain’s contribution to the first live television global broadcast. It was a program entitled Our World. This song, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, expressed the thoughts of many who desired to live in a perfect world. Certainly, the experience of war, hatred, and violence had left many longing for a world of love…nothing more, nothing less. Essentially, the theme of the song is that with love there is nothing hard about life. Hence the repeated words at the end of each verse, “It’s easy.”
As is the case with many, if not most songs, there are critics. This hit song from the Beatles is not difficult. The music is rather simple and the lyrics…well, there are not too many different words. There’s a lot of repeating. Some have criticized the song saying that it is rather naïve. But I like what Ian MacDonald, in his book Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties, wrote. He said,
“During the materialistic Eighties, this song's title was the butt of cynics, there being, obviously, any number of additional things needed to sustain life on earth. It should, perhaps, be pointed out that this record was not conceived as a blueprint for a successful career. "All you need is love" is a transcendental statement, as true on its level as the principle of investment on the level of the stock exchange. In the idealistic perspective of 1967 – the polar opposite of 1987 – its title makes perfect sense” (p. 263).
I suppose that in its context of 1967, this song does make perfect sense. So many people were hurting. The world, and particularly our country, was in turmoil. And people were grasping for anything that would give them a little hope for the future. Love seemed to be the answer for which many people were looking. I wonder, is there a message for us today in the words of this song?
As followers of Christ, we are compelled by love. We live for Christ. John says, “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). A person who is apathetic about God’s purpose for their life is someone who has yet to understand what God has done for them through Christ. What has the love of Christ compelled you to do? How has it changed your conversation with others? Has it made you do things you might not have otherwise done? The standard lifestyle of the average person is to “live for yourself,” or “look out for number one.” But Paul says that someone who truly understands and has been impacted by what Christ has done is much different. “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). And again, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Do you ever struggle to understand who you are in Christ? Paul says we are a new creature. But what does that mean? C. S. Lewis said,
“The Christian way is different: harder and easier. Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked —the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will become yours.’”
The very nature of becoming a new creation implies a transformation. No longer do we live for ourselves, but we live for Christ. We are members of his body. The old has passed away and the new has come. Christ wants our all. And part of his desire for us is that we engage in ministry. We are ministers of reconciliation. Many people around us are in need of reconciliation. As ambassadors of Christ, we have been giving this mission.
Not only are we compelled by love, but we are identified by love. Jesus gave a new command to his disciples during his farewell address, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). In a world that desperately needs salvation, we must love one another. Jesus is clear that this is the way others will know we follow him. This begs Tina Turner’s question, “What’s love got to do…got to do with it?”
Love encourages the well-being of others.
Love endures all things.
Love expresses the truth.
Love extends even to our enemies.
Love is the mark of true disciples.
As Ian MacDonald noted, there are any number of additional things needed to sustain life. But love, God’s love, is what brings life to the full. By his love we have been redeemed. The greatest love is exemplified in the redemptive work of God through the gracious gift of his son, Jesus. God provides for our salvation only because of his divine nature. He is love. And his love for us ought to compel us to respond to others with the same graciousness and love that God has showered upon us. Learning to love the way God loves is easy when we understand all he has done for us.
The last line of the second verse that Lennon and McCartney wrote says, “Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time. It’s easy.” Life is a process that requires patience and time. In time, we can learn how to be who God has called us to be. It’s easy. All we need is to it understand God’s love. Love, love, love.