He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (1 John 4:8)
In June of 1967, The Beatles recorded a hit single entitled “All You Need Is Love.” The main theme of the song is that there is nothing you can do that cannot be done by someone else, so why bother – “all you need is love.” In May 2003, Dr. Pepper Schwartz published an article in Psychology Today entitled “Love Is Not All You Need.” In the article she says, “Unlike some societies that think of passionate love as a nuisance that can undermine sound reasoning about whom and when to marry, we think passion is our truest guide.” Of course she is talking about human relations, and the kind of “love” she addresses is physical and emotional and has little or nothing to do with God’s kind of love.
To say that all we need is love because God is love, we must understand God’s kind of love and then love in the same way that He loves. John tells us that “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him” (1 John 4:16). The Greek word translated “love” here (and in almost every other passage in the New Testament) is agape, and it refers to an unmerited love that is offered without expectation of reciprocation. Human nature precludes this kind of love. Human nature is basically selfish, and it is unwilling to give something without the expectation of getting something in return. In our human nature it is impossible to obey Christ when He says: “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Jesus’ love is sacrificial. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his live for his friends” (John 15:13). When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). The love rendered to God must be equally as selfless as the love God gives. The same caliber of love must then be rendered to our fellow man.
Were it possible for man to love as God loves, it might then be true that all you need is love. However, outside of God’s indwelling presence in a person’s life, it is impossible for man to love as God loves. Furthermore, God has other attributes besides love. He is also holy, which means that he is transcendent, set apart. He is so far removed from any other god that there is no comparison. In keeping with His holiness, He is also jealous of His position and unwilling to share His place with any other god. Above Jesus quoted the Shema, which begins, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord” (Mark 12:29 quoting Deuteronomy 6:4). It is no wonder that God’s first commandment is: “Thou shalt have no other God’s before me. … for the LORD thy God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:3, 5). In addition to His holiness, God is just. “Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice?” (Job 8:3). “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth” (Jeremiah 23:5). Because of His justice, God cannot overlook sin. He must deal with it. “Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice” (Job 37:23).
Humanly speaking, Dr. Schwartz is nearer the truth: “[human] love is not all you need.” As demonstrated above, humans are incapable of loving God or loving one another in the same way that God loves. Furthermore, God is set apart (holy) from humanity and from any god or any religious system the human mind can conceive. God is exclusive and will not share His place with any other. By the same token, He does not accept any religion that acknowledges a different god or gods, so more is needed than just love. The truth of the matter is that “all you need is Jesus.” Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6). After His resurrection and ascension, His apostles continued the same message: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Indeed, there is nothing, humanly speaking, that can be done to earn God’s favor other than accept His gift of grace (unmerited favor). “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Anyone insisting that “all you need is love” might want to heed this warning from Jesus: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there at: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). The “wide gate,” and “the broad way” is the one that says that “all you need is love,” and that it really does not matter what one believes. God does not share the same view. You may want to consider changing your tune from “All You Need Is Love” to “Jesus Is All the World to Me!”