“All you need is love.”
Thus sang the Beatles in one of their chart toppers (that incidentally also brought in a whole lot of money that they didn’t really need). “Love, love, love.” A beautiful sentiment; fill the world with love. But which love? What were they really after? Did they fill the world with love? No doubt this song had a lovely effect on millions who heard it, but there is also no doubt that everyone interprets that word, ‘love’, in their own idiosyncratic way.
For one person, love is a deep romance with the girl who sits two rows down on the train every morning (to whom, by the way, he has never yet had the courage to speak). For another, love is the suffocating, controlling, manipulating power over her only daughter so that her daughter can ‘have everything I never had’ (translation: fulfil MY needs). For a third, love is that vague and general sense of goodwill towards the human race, although “I can’t stand that annoying old hag in the canteen who insists on smiling and showing everyone her crooked yellow teeth” (Linus in Peanuts: “I love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand!”)
All you need is love.
I think this idea needs some qualification. Who do I love, in what way, and why? Most of us could honestly and immediately list those close to us as people we genuinely love. Parents, children, spouse, siblings (yes, even those) – perhaps we might add extended family, close friends, colleagues in study or work. If blessed with a nice neighbourhood, we might add the neighbours we often see through the week and stop to chat to. Our fellows at Church.
How real is this love? How strong? What type of love?
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
How many people would I really be willing to give my life for? Would I do it for a complete stranger? Would I do it for an enemy? Would the Beatles do it for anyone? Yet this is the astonishing, awful standard that Jesus set for His followers; “…lay down one’s life for his friends…” And He took it further by calling His enemies (sinful humanity) His friends, and then proceeding to lay down His life, horribly, for the very people who violently wrenched it from Him.
And thus He won them.
Love is very powerful, when practiced the right way. It goes against the intuition, it goes against our instincts, but there can be no doubt that genuine, unselfish, willing love is the one and only invincible power in this world. And I do not mean only power on the large scale, as in the love that conquered the world peacefully through the Christian religion. I am speaking on the day to day individual level for each human being. Everyone genuinely dedicated to divine, unselfish love and living it out unreservedly is, in the long run, victorious over all other forces. And in the short term, they have the added bonus of peace and joy that no one can take from them.
Start the day with love.
End the day with love.
Fill the day with love.
Thus read the sign at a place I worked once. It is very good advice. Instead of awaking with a growl and a grumble, and being obnoxious to everyone until morning tea time, imagine if you awoke with love in your heart. Imagine waking to the joy of a new day gifted to you by a wildly generous Creator who has decorated it with flowers and twittering birds and bright sunshine on glistening green gardens. Imagine spreading that joy with those who are close to you through a smile and a hug and words of happiness that are infectious.
Instead of collapsing in a heap into bed at the end of the day, imagine taking the time and putting forth the effort to remind those you love that you love them, to offer them, more than words, some simple act of kindness, some small gesture that shows them practically what they mean to you; perhaps to turn on their electric blanket for them unasked so that they are pleasantly surprised when they gingerly crawl into bed expecting coldness, or to complete a household task for them so that they don’t have to do it tonight.
Imagine going through today with others in your mind. Thinking about their needs and acting in kindness towards them. Imagine that thoughtful kindness one day becoming a habit, a part of you, no longer something you must consciously choose to do, but rather something that springs forth from you naturally without conscious intention.
Love, love, love.
Yeah, yeah, George. That’s all very good; but which love do you mean?