Romans 13:8-10

Roughly two weeks ago, August 26, 2014,  was the 50th anniversary of the Beatles coming to Denver for their first and only visit to Colorado.[1] Wednesday August 26,1965 the Beatles flew into Stapleton Airport at 1:35 pm local time with an estimated crowd of 10,000 people there to cheer their arrival.  They were to perform that night at Red Rocks Amphitheater at 8:30 pm.  The price of admission was $6.60.  The other musical acts that played ahead of them were The Bill Black Combo, The Exciters, Jackie DeShannon, and The Righteous Brothers.

 Taking the stage at 9:30, they sang 12 songs in their set list, including “Twist and Shout,” “You Can’t Do That,” “All My Loving,” “She Loves You,” “Things We Said Today,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “If I Fell,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Boys,”     “A Hard Day’s Night,” and “Long Tall Sally.”

Playing these 12 songs, The Beatles performed roughly 30 minutes, though the music could hardly be heard over the overwhelming screaming of the huge crowd—not officially a sell-out, but by witness accounts  overflowing with fans who had likely sneaked in without paying.[2]  Though the entire visit to Denver lasted only about 24 hours, the impact of their visit to the Mile High City is still fondly remembered by many today.  One fan who was at the concert stated that  “nothing will top seeing the Beatles at Red Rocks.”[3]

 Looking back, it seems like all the fuss was warranted.      Red Rocks has become a legendary venue for musical performance and The Beatles enjoy an iconic, perhaps cultic status  in American culture.  Their influence, and their music,  continues to make waves even today.

One song in particular that represents the iconic and cultic nature of The Beatles is their song “All you need is love.”  Debuting in 1967, the song soared to the top of music charts all around the world.  Perhaps what made it so popular was its simple, inspiring message.  The message is pretty clear, it can’t be misinterpreted.  Love is everything it says.[4]

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done

Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung

Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game

It’s easy

 

Nothing you can make that can’t be made

No one you can save that can’t be saved

Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time

It’s easy

 

All you need is love

All you need is love

All you need is love, love

Love is all you need

 

Love is all you need. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.  So why do we try to complicate it sometimes?

As I was sharing with you last week, a lot of times, people like to muddy the waters of Christianity—complicating things that are simple.  Like the man I mentioned last week, for some people, love isn’t enough. You’ll see churches that have pages and pages describing in detail their beliefs—what they think matters—when, the Apostle Paul, writing some 1,900 years before The Beatles, wrote that love really is all we need.

Writing in his letter to the church at Rome, Paul has just spent paragraph after paragraph explaining to the church at Rome what it means to be a church—how they are to operate, how they are to treat one another, and how they are to exist in the world around them.  Yet after all this, he boils his message down rather succinctly to “love.” He writes that all the commandments, all the laws are fulfilled in simply loving one another.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not murder.

You shall not steal.

You shall not covet.

Those commandments we’re so familiar with. Those rules people like to bash over our heads.

Forget that. Let’s simplify things.  “Love your neighbor as yourself” he says.  Why? Because if we love our neighbor as ourselves, we won’t commit adultery with our neighbor’s wife, we won’t murder our neighbor, we won’t steal from them, and we won’t covet what they have.

But on some levels, this “all you need is love” bit sounds too easy, too simplistic, to hippie.  Perhaps what comes to mind is The Beatles singing their famous song with all those flower children singing along, swaying to the music in their bell-bottoms, and their long hair blowing in the breeze as they hold their peace signs high in the air.  But that’s not what Paul means when he writes about love.

Our culture has distorted love, it has misrepresented what love actually is.  In our culture, love is something we fall into or out of. It’s something that surprises or overwhelms us.  It’s something that happens suddenly, unexpectedly, often out of the blue.  Love in our culture is an emotion, a feeling.  Love, in our culture, has nothing to do with the love that Paul writes of.

For Paul, love has very little to do with emotion. “The examples of love to which he refers have to do with behavior rather than feelings.”[5] Love for Paul is not a feeling, love is an action.  We need only to turn to another chapter 13, that of Corinthians, to see this in greater detail.

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.

Love does not insist on its own way.

Love is not irritable or resentful.

Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing.

Love rejoices in the truth.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

 

Whereas in our culture, love is so often the opposite.

Love is fleeting.

Love is circumstantial.

Love is self-serving.

Love is jealous.

Love is untrusting.

Love is a feeling.

Love is an emotion.

No wonder when we hear the word of that song, when we hear the words of the apostle Paul, telling us that “love is all we need,” that “love is what it all boils down to” we are not convinced.  The love we hear is a noun.   The love we have been trained to understand by our culture is passive. But this is not the love Paul is writing about.

The love Paul writes about, the love Christians are to demonstrate, the love this world needs is a verb. It is active, it is life-changing, and it is transformational.


Our world today is full of hate and violence, destruction and despair.  Yet, we mistakenly assume that we can end these things in the same way. We drop bombs. We write laws. We scream loud. We condemn to hell. Yet do things change?  Sadly not, we only get more of the same. And is it any wonder—scriptures tell us we reap what we sow.  Yet somehow we expect different results time after time.  What is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  What if we did things differently? What if we loved?

Do we really want to change the world? Love.   Love actively, love life-changing-ly, love transformational-ly.

The truth of the matter is that “what the law cannot accomplish, love can. Love is a change or transformation of the heart.”[6]

And this same principle applies to our church.  If we want our church to thrive we can’t have that same kind of “sit-back-and-wait-for-it” kind of attitude.  We can’t have that passive, “fall in love” approach.  Our church will not fall into new members or passionate dedication or sacrificial giving.

How will our church thrive? Love. “Love is the essence of discipleship, the basis for transformation.  That love involves all we are and do—every day.”[7]  Love is what it means to be a Christian.  The active, life-changing, transformational love is what will make our church thrive.

I know it sounds simplistic, I know it sounds cheesy, but if we truly practice the love Paul describes, the results will be amazing. Because the love Paul describes is active, it is life-changing, it is transformational.

It is patient and kind.

It is self-sacrificial.

It is faithful to the end.

So when I think about what it’s going to take to grow this church, I wonder, were The Beatles right? Is love really all we need?  We can talk about better programming, newer songs, and more relevant material.    But the reality is that we already have both the product and the tools to make it happen already.  By the power of the Holy Spirit and through the love of God shown to us through Jesus, we have the ability to spread that love to those in our church, those in our family, those in our community.  And if we even come close to practicing that same kind of active, life-changing, transformational love—our church, our families, our communities will never be the same!

Just like the words written by singer Jackie DeShannon, who performed that same night with The Beatles at Red Rocks, we all need to “put a little love in your heart.”

 

Think of your fellow human,

lend them a helping hand,

put a little love in your heart.

 

Because, the world will be a better place

for you and me, just wait and see.

 

[1] http://www.cpr.org/openair/blog/beatles-red-rocks-50-years-still-big-deal

[2] http://www.cpr.org/news/story/fans-and-others-recall-beatles-whirlwind-visit-denver

[3] http://www.cpr.org/news/story/fans-and-others-recall-beatles-whirlwind-visit-denver

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_You_Need_Is_Love

[5] “Romans 13:8-14,” Feasting on the Word. Rochelle A. Stackhouse, 42.

[6] “Romans 13:8-14,”  Feasting on the Word.  Eleazar S. Fernandez. 42.

[7] “Romans 13:8-14,” Feasting on the Word.  Rochelle A. Stackhouse, 42.

 

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