Summary: The world is in desperate need of love, agape love: willful, purposeful, decisional, sacrificial love. In today's passage, Jesus points us to the source of that love, urges us to choose it as an act of obedience, and sometimes to love until it hurts.
What the World Needs Now
In 1965 Burt Bacharach wrote a song he didn’t believe in. He and Hal David offered it to performer Dionne Warwick, who turned it down. Bacharach was reluctant to play it for Jackie DeShannon, but he finally did, and she liked it. Together they recorded, “What the World Needs Now is Love.” The hit made it to #7 in the U.S., #1 in Canada. (Later, even Warwick sang it!) Since then, it has been performed by over 100 artists in a variety of settings, some wholesome, some not so much. It has also been used in times of crisis. For instance, when Robert Kennedy was shot in June 1968, LA radio stations played it over and over for a 26-hour vigil until he died. Pop stars sang it at the 2016 Democratic National Convention as a protest against gun violence. Broadway for Orlando recorded it later that year to raise money for the victims of the Orlando night club shooting.
Think about the song’s title: “What the World Needs Now is Love.” Isn’t that the truth? Love is the antidote for loneliness, for apathy, for worry, for hatred, for bitterness, for purposelessness. Love feels the voids of our lives. Our world is in desperate need of love, and we have it. Loves comes from God. In fact, 1 John 4:8 tells us, “God is love.” To know the true character of love, get to know God.
In today’s passage, Jesus is preparing his disciples for his imminent departure to heaven. He has trained and led them for three years. Now he only has hours to live. And what does he talk about? He talks about love. This is not your puppy love from school days. This is not romantic love. This is a different kind of love, agape love: willful, purposeful, decisional, sacrificial. Jesus teaches us at least three things about it as we listen in with the disciples. First, he urges us to...
1. Draw on love’s source (v. 9)
In verse 9, Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” From Father to Son, to all of God’s children, God’s love flows to us. Notice the tense. The Father “has loved” Jesus. Jesus “has loved” us. It’s already happened. Our job is but to “remain” in that love. Other translations use the word “continue”, “dwell” or “abide.” In modern vernacular, we might say to “hang out” with Jesus’ love. The “Message” paraphrase quotes Jesus as saying, “Make yourselves at home in my love.” The “Passion” paraphrase says, “You must continually let my love nourish your hearts.”
When I think of drawing on love’s source, I think of Corrie ten Boom. I’ve shared this story before, but it’s the perfect illustration. Her family had all died in the Nazi concentration camps. Their crime? Hiding Jews in their home. Somehow Corrie survived. The war had ended, the camps had been liberated, and Corrie was speaking in various churches, sharing about God’s love and faithfulness, even in the midst of horror. She writes in her best-selling book, “The Hiding Place”: “It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, a former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, [my sister] Betsie's pain-blanched face.
“He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. ‘How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.’ He said. ‘To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!’ His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
“Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I prayed, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.
“As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”