Remember the beautiful classic, “What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love," written by Burt Bacharach and recorded by Dionne Warwick and others? Or the Beatles’ tune, “All We Need is Love”? Even though these songs have been around for a long time, they still ring true for many people. In fact, a recent edition of “The Born Loser” (shown above) bore the same sentiment, even though Thornapple, the comic’s main character, conceded, “Unfortunately, there seem to be some issues with supply and demand.”
Why can’t we all just get along? Why can’t we all join in one great, global group hug and stop all this hatred, violence, discord and dissension?
I’m no sociologist, anthropologist or psychologist, but in more than six decades of living on this earth I’ve observed and learned a lot about human behavior, including my own. And I’ve concluded part of this problem is our notion of “love.”
The English language uses the word love in myriad ways: We love puppies. We love our spouses. We love our favorite sports teams. We love pizza. We love our children and grandchildren. We love an afternoon nap. We love shows like “Downton Abbey.” We love science. We love “Star Wars.” We love our car. We love country music, or rap. The same word, but in each instance we apply very different meanings.
The ancient Greeks had it figured out. When referring to “love,” they had a variety of words to specify what they meant. Four of the most common words for love were eros (sexual love), philia (friendship or love between equals), storge (affection, particularly between parents and children), and agape (selfless or sacrificial love). So when they talked about love, there wasn’t much confusion over whether they meant being physically attracted to someone, one man caring deeply for another in a non-sexual manner (“Love you, bro!”), a mother’s devotion for her son or daughter, or loving so deeply that one would be willing to die for another.
In fact, Jesus referred to the agape form of love when He said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends” (John 15:13). Tell me, when we say, “what the world needs now is love sweet love,” are we talking about the kind that would involve making the ultimate sacrifice if necessary?
Probably not. We’re thinking about the warm, fuzzy, touchy-feely type of love that says, “I love you, you love me – so we’re good, right?” Or maybe we’re referring to the “love” expressed on shows like “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette,” where the guy or gal falls in love with different people each episode, driven solely by hormones and the notion, “He/she makes me feel good!”
Sadly, if the latter forms of “love” are what the world needs now, they’re not going to solve anything long-term. Because we have all discovered love driven solely by fickle, hot-and-cold, here-today-gone-tomorrow emotions usually doesn’t last.
This is why I believe the best description of the kind of love the world truly needs is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, a passage commonly inserted into wedding ceremonies even though bride and groom are too enraptured with one another to really be paying attention. If you’re not familiar with it, it says:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails….”