“It won’t get you a job. It won’t pay your bills.
It won’t buy you a house in Beverly Hills.
It won’t fix your life in five easy steps.
And it isn’t the law of the land, or the government.
But it’s all you need.”
So begins contemporary Christian singer Matt Maher as he sings his song, “Hold Us Together.” And what he’s singing about it love, Christian love, “agape” love in Greek. “It’s all you need,” he sings.
What do you think about that?
Evidently the Beatles thought so too – or at least they sang it. In 1967 the Beatles were asked to come up with song containing a simple message to be understood by the world. So John Lennon wrote a song and the Beatles sang it: “All You Need is Love.” The Beatles weren’t necessarily Christian. And I don’t know if they meant “agape” when they “love.” And I don’t know if people really believed it. But a lot of people did sing, “All you need is love.” Some people still sing it: “All you need is love.” Might we believe what we sing?
Once God called two brothers to give up all they had and serve God. The older brother heard the call and responded generously. He left a promising career and the family he loved. He left the girl he loved and hoped to marry. He left the land he knew and the town he called home. He went to a distant land where he served the poorest of the poor. In time a persecution arose and he was arrested, falsely accused, tortured and put to death.
And the Lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have given me a thousand talents of service. Receive a million million talents of reward. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
The younger brother also heard the call of God, but his response was less than generous. He ignored the call and married the girl whom he loved. He stayed in his hometown, became successful and became a father and grandfather. Occasionally he would give alms to the poor. After a long life he died.
And the Lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have given me ten talents of service. Receive a million million talents of reward. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
When the older brother heard that his younger brother had received the same reward as he had, he was surprised and he was pleased. And he went to the Lord and said, “Lord, knowing everything that I know now, if I were to live my life again, I would live my life exactly the same way, serving you.”
And when the Lord heard that, he was surprised and he was pleased. (Story by Anthony de Mello, “The Song of the Bird.”)
I first told that story 25 years ago as a seminary student in a chapel service at Union Theological Seminary. And I knew that if I told that story I might get some questions and “push back.” And indeed I did. A day after I preached a sermon with that story I was washing my car when a couple of seminary students came by. We talked for a few minutes and then one said, “We’ve been talking about that story you told. And you know, it’s a bit troubling. If everyone goes to heaven, why go into ministry?” We talked for awhile. I knew deep in my bones that that story was right, but I just didn’t have a good answer to their question. Or I should say a good answer that they might hear. And for 25 years I’ve thought about that.
Recently the answer came. Why go into ministry? Why follow Jesus? Why be a Christian? Why shared about Christian faith? Not because of fear or guilt or shame. The answer is: love.
“For God so loved the world ...” John 3:16
“God is love.” 1 John 4:8
“Love the Lord your God ...” Deut. 6:5, Mark 12:31
“Love your neighbor as yourself ...” Lev. 19:18, Mark 12:31
“Love one another as I have loved you ... and by this everyone will know you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35
“Love never ends.” 1 Corinth. 13:8
“The greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinth. 13:13
Perhaps in an age of fear, stress, change and bitter partisanship, followers of Jesus can bear witness to something more: Love.
The Rev. Glenn Hink is pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Sharon.