50 years ago, in the world’s first live round-the-world television broadcast, The Beatles sang this song to an audience of 400 million people in 25 countries. It hit the top of the charts in many places, and sold more than a million records in the US alone. The subject hits a nerve!
What John Lennon had in mind when he wrote the song was probably a long way from what Paul (the apostle, not McCartney!) wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 when he was encouraging the conflicted believers in Corinth to live a life of love. Certainly what Paul says is a lot more practical and coherent! When people speak of love in popular culture today, they’re usually referring to a feeling, or sex (a recent survey of top 10 songs showed that 92% of them had sexual themes or references). But what God has to say about love is much more intensely practical and life-changing. It’s about our actions, and what drives them. Like the love between God the Father, Son and Spirit, and the act of supreme love of Jesus on the cross, it’s always to be other-centred.
For us in the church, the body of Christ, it’s about actions that focus on the common good, building one another up, helping one another to be who we are meant to be – Christ-like. That’s what is to drive our use of our gifts (whatever they are) – love for our sisters and brothers in Christ, and a deep desire to help them know Christ, grow in him and proclaim him. To him alone be the glory!