All You Need is Love
You probably can’t even read these words without thinking of the Beatles’ song, “All You Need Is Love.” It is a classic. It is enduring because everyone deeply feels its message. In a world that seems to be filled with terrible events in daily news, we need much more love in our lives. There is something fundamentally right about this, something about love that fills our deepest longings and desires. We see that love is an overflowing response to life that breathes life into others.
Love never fails. It gives what is lacking in others, not from need or duty but from delight. Love dies to self out of a desire to see others live. This is inherently what love does, even when it is not reciprocated. Christians for centuries have said that this is the most basic reality in the universe, because God is love.
God Is Love
God is the origin and cause of all love, because he is love (1 John 4:18). God has the quality of love that permeates all that he does. All of God’s activity is a loving activity. Love is not some abstract principle or virtue. Love is personal. God is three persons who are full of love, delight, and beauty. God is the basis for our love and life. His love relentlessly pursues us and gives life to us, even when we don’t deserve it.
God’s love is typified by a dogged determination to pursue us, even when we do not return it. Unconditional love seems illogical and ridiculous, and in a certain sense it is. God is like a farmer who bets the farm—who leaves everything on the table—to pursue a lost child who has spurned him. God’s love gives the life of his own Son so that we might be with him forever. That is what a promise is. His promise is him saying he has chosen to not be God without us! His promise is to attach himself to us in eternal faithfulness. Since God’s love has no need, it can therefore give what is lacking in us unendingly!
Love Can’t Be Bought
In our consumer society, it is hard not to see others in terms of contracts—of how to make a profit. Even something as wonderful as marriage is seen as a contract that is based on personal interest, and therefore can be broken when that feelings or interest dries up. Thus, unconditional love does not make sense or cents to us.
Many religions and spiritualities (and even that Beatles’ song) do not really get love. Love is not that we have done anything to make God look favorably upon us by any secret knowledge, technique, or experience. God loved us because he loved us! God sent his Son into the world to take away our sins and turn all displeasure from us. Love is God coming in the fullness of time while we hated him, while we were enemies, and dying for us (Rom. 5:8, Gal. 4:4).
To Be Known, Yet Still Loved
While humans don’t always respond with love or kindness, God is never less than true to himself. He is in his very being love. In his delight, grief, wrath, and jealousy, God acts in his perfect, untainted love. God’s affections and responses are always in accord with his holy, loving character. They are perfect expressions of his faithfulness and his wondrous love. The trouble arises when we do not love others in the presence of a loving God. That is when things become uncomfortable for us. And yet, unconditional love does not get thrown off course by our actions.
Our Creator God took on human flesh, clothing humanity in love. Christ united himself to us, dwelling among us as the perfect embodiment of God’s love and promise. He became “obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). In this way the triune God “reconciled us to himself through Christ” (2 Cor. 5:18). Knowing that we are accepted by this God changes everything. This unconditional love is what everyone needs. As Timothy Keller reminds us,
To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us (Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, p. 101).
Now and forever, unloving people like you and me may ceaselessly approach him without despair. Love is what we need more than anything and that unconditional love is what we find in Jesus – to be fully known and yet still loved. If all we need is love, then all we need is God! For if we have God, we have everything.