The other day I reminisced about a song from my childhood called “What the World Needs Now.” Those of you who remember this song will surely remember its signature refrain.
As I reminisced over these words, the thought struck me: “What exactly was that song (and that entire generation) crying out for?”
Love is cheap. Or is it?
“God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5
On the one hand…
We baby-boomers remember the era well. America was convulsing under the shock of massive war protests, race riots, and societal upheaval. We’d finally awakened to centuries of oppression against blacks and other minorities. (Hopefully, we’re still awakening.) So on the one hand, this song–and many like it–could have been viewed as a simple plea to just accept and respect one another, regardless of politics, ethnicity, or any other “outside” characteristic.
Let’s say that this was the end goal of the ‘60’s generation. If so, did they succeed?
On the one hand, great strides have been made. There are no more color-segregated water fountains or lunch counters. We have elected our first black President. Color barriers have been broken in the sports world. More women and minorities are emerging as business and cultural leaders.
On the other hand…
But again I ask: did they succeed?
Let’s put it another way: has progress in the aforementioned areas translated into greater respect and acceptance across society-at-large?
The answer is self-evident. From social media to news headlines to what we can observe with our own eyes, we can see how far we’ve regressed. It is all too apparent that while society openly touts its tolerance, in reality, we are a lot less willing to embrace one another—in public and in private—than we were 50 years ago. Overall, we have made giant steps backward, not forward.
So what are we looking for?
Maybe the real question is: what are we really wanting? Is it merely us getting society’s “stamp of approval” based on whatever’s acceptable at the moment? Is it our ability to self-righteously proclaim that we’re not bigots–even if we can’t stand to be around anyone who looks or thinks differently than us?
Is that really what “the world needs now?” Or is there something more?
The hard truth
Maybe our clamoring for “more love” in society misses the point. Maybe we are demanding something that we ourselves cannot give—and don’t even deserve.
You see, deep inside each of us is a clenched-fist rebel. That rebel delights in, among other things, our own idols made in our own image over the One Who is true love. The more we worship those idols (money, sex, power, comfort, you-name-it), the more we become like them: demanding, selfish, full of envy and strife—and even murderous.
Isaiah put it like this:
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way” (Isaiah 53:6)
Maybe we’re looking for something that we really don’t want.
The supernatural element
The cross epitomizes the very love we need—but reject. On that cross, we see the ultimate expression of Love Himself—the perfect Son of God taking the punishment He didn’t deserve so that we could receive the forgiveness we don’t deserve. But also on the cross, we come face to face with who we really are—and the truth of our rebellion.
When we humbly accept that truth and surrender to His authority, He replaces our rebellion with His love. He welcomes us into His family. He makes us His sons and daughters. And He fills us to overflowing so that we can pour Him out onto others.
This is why Richard Wurmbrand could pray for his Communist torturers. This is why the survivors of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal slaughter in 2015 could forgive the white supremacist who murdered their relatives. This is what drove the Amish community in Lancaster, PA to welcome into their community the mother of the man who killed 5 of their girls in 2006.
This kind of love is supernatural. It isn’t the “touchy-feely” kind of stuff that makes me feel good and/or look good in front of everyone else. It is torturous to our natural inclination, while at the same time being indispensable to our well-being.
This, and nothing less, is “what the world needs now.”