“Word for Today” – Philippians 1 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

November 17, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

All You Need Is Love

“All You Need Is Love.” Such was the popular sentiment when the Beatles released a single by this name in 1967. This sentiment was so popular, in fact, that their song shot instantaneously to number one in both the US and in the UK. And in a time riddled by bloodshed in Vietnam and frantically shifting cultural tectonic plates, leading to devastating social upheaval, it was not a surprise that love alone might be touted as the answer to the word’s ills, especially since the world’s ills were all too often bulleted by hatred.

“All You Need Is Love.” It made for a number one song, but is it true? In our reading for today from Philippians 1, Paul is trapped in a society similar to that of 1967’s America. The wicked emperor Nero, known for his insanity and disdain toward Christians, is on the throne in Rome and Paul is imprisoned there, waiting to appear before Nero on charges of heresy and insurrection (cf. Acts 28:17-31). The air of society is thick and ominous. How will Paul respond to such a cultural morass? Will he say with the Beatles, “All You Need Is Love?”

Not exactly. Paul does indeed extol the value of love in a society in which hatred and contempt seem to reign supreme as he writes, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more” (verse 9). But Paul then continues to explain how this love should not operate in a vacuum, but “in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God” (verses 9-11). According to Paul, love is indeed needed, but it is not wholly sufficient. For, according to Paul, the term “love” must not just be thrown around as a squishy non-descript emotion which can mystically salve the world’s ills. Instead, love must be defined. How is it defined? It is defined by knowing the righteousness given by Jesus Christ and by discerning how to apply that righteousness to everyday situations. That is, a person must allow their love for others to be structured by Christ’s righteousness and not by their own flights of emotional fancy and then they must allow the application of that righteousness to be guided not by timidity, anger, or any other human emotion, but by the discernment that comes only through God’s Spirit. In brief, love and its application to a hate-filled world is to be defined by Jesus and not by any human being.

Sadly, love is often not so well defined as it is in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. The term “love” is left to stand alone, as in the Beatles’ song, and many people of many different philosophical, ideological, theological, and ethical stripes are allowed to come along and dump whatever content they might deem appropriate into this term “love.” The irony of this, of course, is that when different people dump different content into this word “love,” suspicion, antipathy, and even scorn regularly ensues toward others who fill this word “love” with content different from theirs. That is, people hate each other over love.

As Christians, we can gladly and unapologetically define “love” by Christ’s righteousness. For in order for Christ to share with us his righteousness, he engaged in a decisive act of love – he died on a cross. No more perfect love ever has been, or ever can be, shared. Christ’s love is the perfect and ultimate love and is therefore to define every Christian’s love.

“All You Need Is Love.” No, not really. You need more than that. You need the love of Christ. For apart from Christ, we cannot know true love. With Christ, however, love can offer comfort, render righteousness, grant hope, and pave the way to salvation. And this is love that the whole world really does need. I pray that you share this love today.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – 3 John – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Philippians 2 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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