One moment we were sitting (although lots of others were dancing) in a theatre listening to the Bootleg Beatles telling us ‘All you need is love’, but before you could say ‘Hey Jude,’ we were hearing the distressing news emerging from Israel and Gaza.
The contrast couldn’t have been greater and the more I reflected the more I found myself thinking that John Lennon was ‘spot on’. This sad world desperately needs an outpouring of love if only to counteract the deluge of hatred and division we are witnessing at the moment.
Lennon’s song has been condemned as ‘naïve’ and ‘simplistic’ and it easy to see why. Warm sentimental lyrics can easily tug at the heart strings as the gushing embraces and gyrating bodies in the theatre showed all too clearly. But the world needs infinitely more than a warm glow and friendly embrace; it needs the kind of love we see exemplified in the life of Jesus.
That kind of love is seen in acts of kindness whether they be large or small, and they are particularly distinctive because of their all-embracing, inclusive nature. Jesus understood this which is why he told his friends that they should be like His heavenly Father who ‘gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good’ and ‘sends rain on the just and the unjust alike’.
Jesus certainly sought to live that. In fact, I am sure He must have dismayed many a fervent nationalist when He was kind to members of the occupying Roman army. He even went as far as to tell His followers that if a soldier ordered them to carry his gear for a mile they should offer to carry it for two!
True love is also willing to forgive. Nothing highlights that more than the prayer Jesus offered up when he was being brutally executed. ‘Father forgive them’ he said, ‘they haven’t a clue what they are doing.’ In other words, whether it was a Roman soldier or a religious leader, a disillusioned follower who had abandoned him or a friend who had let him down, Jesus was willing to forgive every one of them.
True love has another distinctive characteristic too. The apostle Paul referred to this in a letter he wrote to his friends in the church at Corinth. Love he told them is patient. In other words, true love does not look for ‘quick fixes’. It is ready for the long haul knowing that it can take a long time to break down barriers and assuage bitter memories.
My friend Lewis Misselbrook appreciated this, and he talked about it at length in a book he dedicated to this very subject, he used an illustration that I have often quoted. Lewis told the story of a psychiatrist who was faced with the challenge of helping a young girl who was so severely traumatised that her ‘subconscious had decided that the outside world was too horrific and agonising to face.’
‘Laura’ he said, became his patient when she was 12 years of age and he began by trying to talk to her for two afternoons a week. But it was all to no avail. There was nothing he could do to get her to make contact with him. However, he was determined not to give up and so he bought a doll’s house construction kit and began to assemble it in front of her. But try as he may he could still not get her to talk. I think I would have been tempted to give up but he didn’t and on one momentous day she finally reached out and moved a chair. That was the beginning of her healing. Now that sounds wonderful but you need to know that she was eighteen when she was finally discharged and well enough to get a job as a children’s nurse
So let’s not give up being kind, and let’s continue to forgive those who hurt us because in the end love will prevail. We can say that because Jesus was resurrected to life again on that first Easter day. Perhaps that will help you understand why I decided to join the winning side!