All you need is love

The Beatles claimed, “All you need is love,” but “Now That the Magic Is Gone” by Joe Cocker contains these words:

You know love can be tender
Love can be cruel
It can smile like an angel
While it treats you just like a fool
It captures and haunts you
Until you give in
And it starts the dice against you
In a game you never can win
Just when I was thinking
Maybe luck was here with me
You’re telling me it’s over
Say it’s time for breaking free

That’s love in popular song. Everyone has heard lots of songs about the magic and rapture of love, and many others about the pain when it ends. Songs run the gamut of emotion from the supreme joy in love to cynicism and disgust when it doesn’t seem to keep its promises.

Our songs reflect our society. People fall in love and marry, but half of all marriages end in divorce. Not all of the other half are happy. In many marriages, at least one partner has been divorced at least once. As Frank Sinatra sang, “Love is lovelier the second time around,” although at least one wag suggested that some folks in Hollywood must have heard, “Love is lovelier the seventh time around.” It’s nothing new. More than 200 years ago, Samuel Johnson declared a second marriage “the triumph of hope over experience.”

Some people seek to avoid the cycle of marriage and divorce simply by moving in together and establishing a household without getting married. When they break up, it is every bit as complicated and nasty as any divorce. Shacking up does not help love last. What does? A different kind of love, a kind untouched by notions of romance:

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 with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. — 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

Bible and ringAll of our popular songs celebrate, or denigrate, love as a feeling between two people. Feelings come and go. Scripture, on the other  hand, does not limit love (as it does marriage) to a special relationship between one man and one woman. It commands that everyone love everyone. It speaks of love as a way of living, despite whatever feelings may or may not be present.

If I feel impatient, love is kind anyway. Love is not easily angered. If I get angry, whether easily or not, love is not rude. Love is hard work. It means putting up with people I don’t like very much. It means seeking the best for everyone, even if it means someone else gets a prize that I don’t. It means I can’t feel glad when bad things happen to some enemy.

That’s just not natural! Actually, it’s supernatural. It’s the way God regards each one of us, despite all we do to grieve  him. With the help of the  Holy Spirit, we can love others with God’s own love. That kind of love, and that kind alone, will never fail. John Lennon was right: all you need is love–just not necessarily the kind he and other song writers have in mind.

While I was hunting for the quotations I used in this post, I came across one I had never heard before, but it seems a very fitting conclusion:

A marriage based on full confidence, based on complete and unqualified frankness on both sides; they are not keeping anything back; there’s no deception underneath it all. If I might so put it, it’s an agreement for the mutual forgiveness of sin. — Henrik Ibsen

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