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Love Is All You Need, Part 1

by Paddy McCoy

The stores are filled with pink and red candy, flower shops are stocking up on roses, and somewhere in the world a boyfriend is preparing to pop “the question” to his girlfriend. February is a month devoted to the celebration of love.

Scholars would agree that love is at the center of the Scriptures. Rightly understood, a truly joy-filled Christian life springs not from fear, or simply following a set of strict rules, but rather from a life of love.

But what is love? The following lyrics from a love medley that combines some of the most famous love songs in the past 20 years tries to capture the essence of love: “Love is a many-splendored thing; love lifts us up where we belong; all you need is love.” Interestingly enough, these lyrics echo the apostle Paul when he writes, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV).*

Love is certainly a many-splendored thing, but is it powerful enough to change a person’s life?

When Kim enrolled at my school, she didn’t know anything about God. She came from a pretty horrific background filled with sexual, physical, and emotional abuse that led to three years of homelessness and years of running whenever anyone got too close.

Her self-worth was zero; she struggled to make eye contact when she talked to another person; and she often talked softly, as if unsure of her words. Each day was a struggle, but her nights gave no solace either, as they were filled with terrifying nightmares from her past.

That was her life until she met Jesus.

After a few weeks on our campus she came to my office to ask about this Jesus we kept talking about. Over the next several months she would come to learn who God was, how He felt about her, and what He did to save her from her life of brokenness. Then Kim began to know the God of love.

It wasn’t easy, but over the next two years Kim became a new person. Now she looks you in the eye when she talks to you, she has a smile on her face, and she’s even a little loud at times. She has found healing from her past, and last year she shared her story with the entire student body. She is a new creation because she knows that there is a Person who will never leave her and never forsake her. He loves her so much that He died to be with her.

Love changes a person, and maybe the reason that the apostle Paul could write such a beautiful chapter on love in 1 Corinthians 13 is because he too was changed by the love of God. Prior to being confronted by Jesus (see Acts 9), Paul was hunting Christians to put them in prison or to oversee their death. His life was full of anger and rage. But then He met Christ. 

Paul writes about the change in his life in a letter to Timothy, one of his students, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:13, 14, NIV).

For Paul, where there was once hatred, there was now love. Where there was once violence, there was now gentleness. Where there was once anxiety, there was now peace. Both Kim and Paul were changed because of the power of the love of God for His children.

Maybe this is the reason Jesus knew that the “greatest commandment” is to “ ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’. . . And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV). Jesus knew that receiving God’s love would change us, setting us free from the world of sin and death (see John 8:32, Romans 8:1-4). Jesus knew that if you focused first on loving God and receiving His love for you, your life would be fuller and more complete than you could ever imagine if you were living without Him. He knew you could become the person He sees when He looks at you, and that is what He gave His life for.

But then, a natural result of loving God is loving your neighbor. Both commandments are given in the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18), but Jesus put them together to tell us that when we love God and receive His love, the natural result is that we will love others. And not just the people who are nice to us, but even our enemies (see Matthew 5:44).

In closing, I’d like to simply share some words from the apostle John. John referred to himself in his Gospel not as John, but rather as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23, NIV). He knew that his whole identity was wrapped up in the love Jesus had for him. Do you know that? Have you met Jesus?

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:7-12, NIV).

* Scripture quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Padraic “Paddy” McCoy writes from College Place, Washington. He is campus chaplain for Walla Walla University.

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