“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” - Jesus, Matthew 22:37-40, quoting from the Hebrew Scriptures (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18)
“All you need is love. Love is all you need.” - The Beatles
Life is all about love. There is nothing greater. We can make all sorts of rules. We can devise doctrines and dogmas. When you boil the gospel down to its core message you get love. Jesus argued that the essence of the Hebrew Law and Prophets is that we are called to love. When it is all said and done, a life lived well is a life lived in love. Philosophers, religious leaders, poets, and songwriters through the ages affirm this to be true.
While The Beatles certainly weren’t going for this, “All you need is love” is a biblical affirmation! John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
The writer of 1 John talks about God’s great love for us through Jesus’ sacrifice, saying, “If God loved us in this way, we also ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us (1 John 4:11-12).”
When some in the church at Corinth wanted to esteem themselves above others because they had certain spiritual gifts, Paul told them that these gifts are worthless without love. He told them, “Now faith, hope, and love remain - these three things - and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).” Essentially, all you need is love.
Love is the core of who we are. Genesis tells us that God created us in God’s image. 1 John 4:16 tells us that God is love. We have unfortunately missed out on living as our true selves in love.
The Genesis story of Adam and Eve shows how we sought after being like God in our own ways and thereby missed out on being truly like God. Adam and Eve broke a relationship with God in order to have knowledge of good and evil. They were duped into thinking this would make them like God.
What Adam and Eve missed is that God is love and true love does not break relationships for personal gain. The story of scripture is God calling back the people in love. This story comes to a dramatic climax in the story of Jesus, whose life, death, resurrection, and ascension shows us the way to God: love. Love esteems others above yourself. Love gives to others in need. Love calls us to give up our lives for others. Love defeats death. To love is to be like God.
Jesus commands his disciples to love one another. He tells his disciples that others will know that they are his disciples by their love for one another (John 13:34-35). Again, all you need is love.
However, we look at the world and see a serious lack of love. We live in a world of divisiveness, greed, war, assault, and hatred. The Church has too often participated in all of this throughout history. This happens when the church, like Adam and Eve, fails to see that love is the highest priority.
Instead of contributing to to the woes of the world, the Church is uniquely positioned to be the bearers of love. The church is called by Jesus to love: love God and love neighbor. It is love, not hatred, that changes hearts. It is love, not war and violence, that solves the problems of the world. It is love, not greed, that assures justice for all.
What would our world look like if the Church reprioritized love as the most important thing?
I had one of those “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets when I was a kid. The question on my wrist was supposed to be a reminder to seek the Jesus way of life as I went about my day. Maybe the better question is, “How would Jesus love?” The question, “What would Jesus do?” gives us the opportunity to put Jesus’ stamp of approval on our less-than-loving actions.
“How would Jesus love?” challenges us to dig deeper. Are our actions loving? If not, then it’s not what Jesus would do. HWJL doesn’t have the same ring to it as WWJD, but I think it gets to the heart of the matter because love is all you need.