IVP - Strangely Dim - Love Is All We Need

January 8, 2008

Love Is All We Need

I have a mild confession to make: I like angry music.

I don't like hateful music--at least not most hateful music--but I do like angry music. I listen to it a fair bit. Who can deny the potency of a line as simple as "We don't need no education" or "This ain't my American dream"? These folks are so angry they use contractions; they're so angry they use bad English.

Something in my upbringing--maybe because despite my surname I'm largely Irish, maybe because I live in post-Watergate America, maybe because I always got picked last for dodgeball--made me predisposed to think that anger is the most efficient path to truth, that no matter how clever they both were, there was something simply more profound about John Lennon singing "Instant Karma's gonna get you" than Paul McCartney singing "Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs; what's wrong with that?"

Then again, what is wrong with that?

The bias that's become so prevalent in our culture is that truth emerges out of anger, that we are most right when we are most outraged, and that we ought to be outraged when we're right.

I've watched enough campaign coverage by now, and 24-hour news channels prior to that, to know that news reported without snarkiness is not really considered news. We've been taught, even conditioned, to create truth by speaking our opinions in our outside voices, and to defend truth by escalating our rhetoric. We are, as a culture, cultivating our inner angry musicians.

Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you that such a life is not a life worth living.

It's that kind of life, in fact, that the apostle Paul was called out of. We first meet Paul in the seventh chapter of Acts, where using the name Saul he joins the religious authorities in Jerusalem as they throw stones at a follower of Jesus until he is dead. Saul apparently doesn't throw a stone himself; perhaps he has too lofty political aspirations to get his hands so dirty. But we're told that "the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul . . . and Saul approved of their killing [Stephen]" (Acts 7:58--8:1).

Saul soon after that began going from house to house, dragging Christian men and women to prison simply for being Christian. In fact he was still, in the words of the biblical book of Acts, "breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples" when he heard the voice of God tell him to cut it out, to lighten up and to turn his life around.

Fast forward a couple of decades and we see that this angry young man has done just that. Saul, the best and brightest of the young religious zealots of his day--a kind of Barack Obama on steroids, in traffic, with rabies--has taken the name Paul and written the following beginning to his letter to the Philippians:

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God's holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:1-11 TNIV)
That's not an angry song; that's a love song. And not some sappy, pollyannic prom theme either. This is love tested by time, distance and pain. This is love that gives any anger its proper context, because it's love in the spirit of the God who made us and the Savior who died for love of us.

So good riddance, 2007. We don't need no evil, no injustice, no sin, no victimization, no violence, no power plays, no vitriol or calculated rhetoric. In 2008, by the grace of God, all we need is love.

Love is all we need.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at January 8, 2008 8:51 AM Bookmark and Share


Oh by the way, rabbit.

Comment by: Dave Zimmerman at January 8, 2008 4:14 PM

And a few decorations...

Comment by: Ellen at January 11, 2008 9:09 AM

Nicely played, Ellen.

Comment by: Dave Zimmerman at January 11, 2008 9:22 AM

Glad you caught the reference. Al looked at me blankly when I told him about your post and my comment.

Comment by: Ellen at January 14, 2008 5:34 PM

This was something like amazing to me--'cause I definitely resonate with the whole "If it's true, I'm gonna get upset and intense about it" idea. Thanks for the reality check.

Comment by: Jenn at January 15, 2008 5:29 PM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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