It was a different place and a different time. It was 1967 and what would become known as the summer of love. There was an ambitious idea from Aubrey Singer and the BBC for a global television event called Our World—a live broadcast featuring segments from all over the world. The Beatles were asked to come up with a song with a simple message that would have global appeal. “All You Need Is Love” was the result. They performed on stools in the Abbey Road studio surrounded by friends sitting on the floor around them. It was broadcast on four continents before an estimated audience of over 400 million people.
It’s a great song that has universal appeal. After all, who’s not in favor of love? But it does raise some interesting questions. What exactly is love? The summer of love (by anyone’s definition) was characterized by drugs, promiscuity, and protests against the establishment. Another question is how does love manifest itself? Is it expressed through people joining together in song and merriment or is there something more? If so, what might it be?
Although love undoubtedly means different things to different people, that doesn’t mean we have to abandon it to the realm of fuzzy concepts with no parameters (like the words “awesome” or “cool”). From a biblical perspective, love is well-defined. It is less about sentiment and more about action (1 John 3:17-18). Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan shows that love is an active mercy, good will that seeks nothing in response. It is not about passively accepting all of the different versions of reality but speaking “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:30) as Christ does with the woman at the well. In the well-known passage from 1 Corinthians 13, Paul enumerates many other important characteristics of love.
All of this comes into play as we consider Jesus’ teaching that loving God and loving others comprise the two greatest commandments (Mark 12:28-34). Just as He was able bring conciseness and clarity out of the law by summing it up with just two commands, so we must move the conception of love as truth-less sentimentality if we are to see love as it is—a holy devotion to God and others.
If we return to 1967 and Abbey Road, the Beatles were right—all we need is love. But it’s like saying that undeveloped countries need water. That’s true, but what they really need is the right kind of water. What we need is the right kind of love—not truth-less sentimentality but the holy devotion to God and others that hear about from Jesus and see in His life.
When we have this, love is all you need.