“All you need is love,” the Beatles informed us, and a quick glance at our culture reveals how much we’ve bought into that. Our songs, advertising, our personal aspirations—all pay homage to love—or at least our silly substitutes for it. We love our wireless plans; we love our sports teams; we love our coffee in the morning.
But if everyone agrees that all we need is love, we’d do well to understand what love is. You may remember the movie “The Notebook.” Well, I once got into hot water with some teenagers after I panned the movie. They said, “That movie was a beautiful picture of love. That man stuck with his wife till the end.”
Well, if you don’t remember the movie, an older woman with dementia is visited by her husband every day, who reads their love story to her from his old notebook. Though she doesn’t recognize him at first, when she is reminded of their story, she remembers.
The problem with the movie is that the story in the notebook can’t produce the ending! The story is all too typical: One summer, two teens fall in love. So they disobey their parents, break their commitments (including an engagement), show a complete lack of moral character, but magically stay married because their very strong feelings for each other never go away.
In our culture – in movies, music and TV shows – to love is to feel strongly. This then shapes our marriages, and even our faith. To love our spouse or our Savior is to have strong feelings for them. But what if the feelings go away? What sustains love then?
Biblical love is not mere feelings. It’s not less than feelings, but it’s far more. And we know what love is, the Scripture tells us, because God loves us.
God, the Bible informs us, is not only loving but actually “is love”—and Christ proves that to us. As Paul said, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were sinners, Christ died for us.” Why God is so loving is a mystery that God’s enemies will never figure out. Screwtape, the literary demon invented by C.S. Lewis, could only say in bewilderment, “One must face the fact that all this talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not … mere propaganda, but an appalling truth.”
God’s people, of course, are not just called to point people to His love, but to share love with them. That’s doubly true in our day, when the challenges to Christian faith are multiplying. But how do Christians put His love into practice in an increasingly hostile culture? How can we both obey Jesus and love our enemies?
Again, Paul’s helpful: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” We all know this, of course. The problem is doing it, especially today, when we face the temptation to lash out and demonize our opponents.
And that’s why “The Notebook” doesn’t cut it when it neuters love by reducing it to mere feelings. Love acts, even when it does not feel. Love doesn’t justify the breaking of commitments – love fundamentally is a commitment to live for the good of the other.
So the Beatles weren’t wrong, just incomplete. All we need is biblical love, the love that reflects the goodness of God. That love will cost us, but to reach a world looking for love in all the wrong places, it’s a cost worth paying.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our series on the seven virtues. Be sure to go to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and watch my discussion with Timothy George on the virtue of love. Also, we’ve created a flash drive for you called “Renewing the Virtues.” It has all of Chuck Colson’s Two Minute Warning videos on the virtues, along with great resources and study materials. Again, that’s BreakPoint.org.