When Jackie DeShannon sang, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love,” a generation sang with her. According to the song, the world doesn’t need any more mountains to climb or rivers to cross. What we need is love, “not just for some, but for everyone.”
The theme of this hit song of the ’60s strikes a chord that resonates in all of us. We buy roses and candy to express our love to our spouse. We raise relief money for communities devastated by natural disasters. We applaud the actions of people like 75-year-old Russell Plaisance, who tried to help a troubled family whose plight had been described in his local paper. Russell brought money, food, and toys to a local motel where the family was staying. Unfortunately, Russell’s kindness was “repaid” a few days later when the father of the family pulled a knife on him and made off with his wallet and car.
Russell’s experience helps explain why the world is in such need of love. If love offered was always returned, there would be enough to go around. But love is not always returned. And sometimes when love is returned, we redefine it to fit our interests. Love means different things to different people.
Even in common conversation, we use the word love to refer to a variety of things. For example, I might say that:
“I love to play golf.”
“I love my computer.”
“I love my wife and children.”
“I love the Liverpool Reds.”
When a word can mean so many different things, it may come to mean nothing at all!
The wisdom of the Bible is clear, however, in its definition of love. Writing to people afflicted by anger and conflict, the apostle Paul said:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing (1 COR. 13:1–3).
These timeless words were written to people who knew the importance of personal commitment and sacrifice. The Corinthian readers of Paul’s letter understood the value of faith, knowledge, spiritual gifts, strong leaders, and inspiring messages.
But in the process of trying to look after their own interests, the Christ-followers in Corinth lost sight of the goal of their faith and knowledge. They forgot that it is possible to study the Scriptures and yet miss the heart and mind of God. In their desire for fulfillment, they had forgotten what they needed most.