Capturing the cultural moment in a song was a successful formula for Hal David and Burt Bacharach in 1965. Their hit also contained a timeless thought, still applicable today.
Jackie Deshannon recorded and released their song “What the World Needs Now is Love.” In just a few months, it topped the charts in the U.S. and Canada. Those were days of wrenching cultural upheavals. Civil rights and Martin Luther King, Jr. Watts riots. Cold War. Vietnam War. Sexual revolution. Countercultural protests. Lingering national grief over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the controversial findings of the Warren Commission.
The song says we have enough mountains, rivers, moonbeams and cornfields, but what’s missing is “love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…Not just for some but for everyone.” It was recorded again this year, and it is still true. The context today includes brutal killings in the name of religion, politicians who attack each other with wanton disrespect, ongoing wars, injustice and intolerance, disrespect for authority.
The song poses the problem, but offers no answer. Pluralism supposes that all religions are about love, a claim difficult to justify. Only Jesus offers the unconditional love of a heavenly Father and the lofty morality of selfless love, an answer that can change the world. He was about love and sacrifice, and called his followers to the same.
“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God’s love does not contradict His justice. His wrath toward immorality is what makes the sacrifice of His Son such a loving act of forgiveness which you receive by faith. Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son is a portrait of God’s fierce and unyielding love for you. Yet if you’re honest, you know you do not merit such grace from a heavenly Father who runs to embrace your homecoming. Remember, nothing separates us from the love of God (Rom. 8:31ff).
That enormous love compels us to be the same. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35).
Even if to you, it beggars belief that God became man, you cannot deny that this kind of love would change the world to the extent it is practiced. The more you personally live by love, the more people in your world will be changed. So, who will show the love of God to the people around you? That is the sweetener the world needs now.