What The World Needs Now
Series by Dean B.
“Dean has been a member of the body of Christ for more than 60 years. He has taught Bible classes for every age group from pre-school through adult, has served as a deacon at three congregations, and has twice served as an interim pulpit minister. He is a retired aerospace executive and has a PhD in electrical engineering.”
Part 1 - Love
What do you think that the world needs most right now? A vaccine? Justice? Peace? An end to global warming? While those are all critically important, I believe that both for the short term and the long term what the world needs most is love.
In 1965 (I was just finishing my first year of graduate school) people were worried, even fearful, and anxious about the future, very much as we are today. There was of course no pandemic to face, but the US was only a little more than two years from the Cuban Missile crisis, which we believed had brought us to the very brink of a nuclear war and which left the country very much on edge, and two years from the shock of the Kennedy assassination. Soldiers were being sent into combat in Viet Nam, beginning that national nightmare. Civil rights protests and associated turmoil and violence were growing. Society exploded in the summer of 1965 in the Watts Riots in Los Angeles which went on for six days and resulted in 1000 buildings being burned and 34 deaths.
In that setting, a song was released which struck a chord in the hearts of many people dealing with uncertainty, doubt, loss, and even fear. The song was titled “What the World Needs Now” and its opening lyrics were:
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone
That song jumped into the top ten and stayed there for some time because it spoke to a fundamental need that we have as individuals and as a community both to be loved and to express that love in actions toward others. At that time what the world desperately needed was love and there most certainly was too little of it. I think that is clearly the case today as well,
For followers of Christ, even if our world was in less difficult circumstances than it is, love is an imperative. In the New Testament we are urged time after time to love – to love God and to love Jesus to be sure, but even more often to show that love to one another, to our neighbors, and even to our enemies. In Mark 12:30-31 Jesus is recorded as telling a Jewish teacher that the most important commandment of the Law was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”, which was probably what they expected to hear. But Jesus also said that there was a second commandment of equal importance to “love your neighbor as yourself.” In Matthew 5:43-45 Jesus also shocked his followers by telling them “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies…” and in John 13:34-35 he taught us “…Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” So we see our obligation as Christians to extend our love for the benefit of everyone we encounter and as a testimony to the presence of Christ in our lives.
The apostle Paul also taught us about love, especially in the well-known passages of I Corinthians, chapter 13. Paul tells us that what we have to sustain us and those around us in the difficulties of life are faith, hope, and love – and that by far the greatest of these is love.
But I would suggest that as critical as love is, and as much as we and the entire world need it in our lives, the evidence is that loving is often difficult for us. It appears to me that even a cursory look at our world will show that just as in the words of the song there is often too little love – in our personal lives, in the community of Christians, and certainly in society in general. Why is this the case? What can we or should we do about it? How can we embrace and more clearly mirror the love of God? In this short series we will look at some of the aspects being loving and some of the barriers that get in our way.
Part 2 - Overcoming Rudeness
Do you know what rudeness has in common with a U.S. Supreme Court opinion in an obscenity case? The court held that gross obscenity is hard to define, but we know it when we see it and it is bad for us! That is also true of rudeness.
Rudeness Gets In The Way of Love.
One of the greatest barriers to showing love for others is rudeness. Being rude displays our lack of concern for those we encounter and it glaringly displays our self-absorption and our failure to imitate Jesus. It also makes us not very lovable in return.
Rudeness is perhaps hard to strictly define. It reminds me of a 1964 Supreme Court opinion dealing with the matter of “hard-core pornography”. Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote concerning illegal pornography “I shall not attempt to further define the kinds of material… But I know it when I see it.” I think we know rudeness when we see it, and it is all around us and likely even creeps into our own lives at times.
When I was a young man “etiquette” books were popular. They purported to tell you how to behave in any social setting so that people would not think you rude or uncultured. We have long abandoned most of the trivial details associated with formaal “etiquette”, but perhaps we have also wrongly abandoned the underlying idea of behaving thoughtfully and kindly toward others.
I remember being taught about what people referred to as “common courtesy” – by which was meant simply consistently considering the feeling of others in our speech and actions. Sometimes I think we have drifted away from the idea of considering the feelings of others. Our society encourages us to be frank, to stand up for ourselves, to confront issues head-on, to demand our rights. It seems that everything is supposed to be about me – what I want, what I feel. But I think that leads us all too often to be rude to others.
As Christians we need to be sensitive to the effect of our words and actions on others. Being rude shouts “you do not matter”. How can we encourage others and show the example of Christ in our lives (in short how can we say we are loving) by being rude?
We often have disagreements or conflicts - some minor, some major – with people. If we allow ourselves to become rude and insulting in those disagreements, how does that help to persuade them to see things our way, and more importantly how does that show the love of God? Maybe we need to more carefully watch our language and behavior when we have disagreements.
Rudeness can show up in many forms. Even a small act such as littering is really being rude to others by spoiling their environment. Rudeness often appears when we just do not care about the other person or their feelings. But how is that attitude showing love? If we love others, why would we want to hurt their feelings, or devalue their worth, or spoil their small pleasures in life? Perhaps we need to think more about what love demands of us in our relationships and get rudeness out of the way.
The apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians, chapter 9, that he had “..become all things to all men, so that by all possible means I might save some.” Perhaps we cannot become all things to all men, but I bet that if we try we can become less rude and give others a better example of what it means to love. Remember, we know rudeness when we see it and so does everyone watching us.
What the world needs now is love, and rudeness has no part in love.