You’ve heard it all before.
“All we need is love,”
“Why can’t we all just love each other?”
“Love is the answer.”
I’ve heard preachers say it. Heck, I’ve probably said it! “If I could sum up the Bible in one word, it would be love.”
Fueled by a generation that has grown up in a particularly hateful world, people crave peace and happiness. Why can’t we all just get along? To just stop fighting each other on everything…this would make things better. There’s only one little problem:
Love is not the most important thing.
There’s an important debate that rages on in our post-Christian society. Asserted by believers, but also by unbelievers, the argument is that what we believe is less important than whether or not we are nice to each other.
The argument goes like this:
Jesus talks about love more than anything. (see The Gospels)
The Bible says it plainly, “God is love.” (see 1 John 4:8)
If we don’t have love, we are just making noise. (see 1 Corinthians 13:1)
After issuing these three pieces of evidence, the conclusion many draw is that loving one another is the point of all of this Christianity stuff.
This ignores a few important facts.
First, love is not what Jesus talks about the most. He talks about money more than He talks about love. He also talks about the Kingdom of God more than both love and money. So if we’re basing the importance of something on frequency of word usage, love gets the bronze medal at best. It is not the most important thing. Being loving is not priority number one. The Kingdom of God is.
Second, 1 John 4:8 does indeed say that “God is love.” But when you read the entirety of the passage, it’s clear that the point is that we love one another because God loved us first. A perfect example of this love is the sacrificial work of Jesus. So again, love is not the point. It’s the motivation behind everything we do, but it is not the point. It is merely a response to the point. The point is Jesus and His work on our behalf.
Lastly, 1 Corinthians 13:1 does in fact say that if we do a bunch of stuff but we don’t have love, we’re just making noise. It says we’re like a clanging symbol and all that, which is not a pleasant. This is true. Love should season everything we do, for sure. But love isn’t the end game. 1 Corinthians 13 does not say, “Hey, don’t do anything else…just love one another”. Loving can’t be all. Not if loving simply means appreciating, accepting, never confronting, or letting people do their thing because “I’m not called to judge…I’m called to love.”
As one author put it, God is love, but love is not God. It shouldn’t be, anyway. To analyze modern Christianity sometimes reveals that we love and desire love more than we love and desire God. Love is on the throne instead of Jesus. We live like love is the most important thing. It’s not. Not the kind of love we often promote: the passive, trite, lazy, all-smiles kind. That’s not love at all…not in the Biblical sense of the word. It turns out love is not the one-word summary of the Scriptures.
Look, I’m not saying we should walk around hating and hurting each other. In fact, I’m not sure we love each other enough. But perhaps the reason we lack the kind love we crave is because we’re practicing an ill-defined, overvalued love that is stripped of its depth and placed on a throne where it doesn’t belong. We treat love like it’s the answer, but there are so many huge questions where it doesn’t adequately fill in the blank. So then where do we turn?
The truth is, love is not all we need. We need Jesus. If you chase love you’ll likely end up disappointed. It is only when we pursue Jesus that we find the love we’ve been looking for all along.