The Beatles, in the heyday of the hippie movement, had a hit single with “All You Need Is Love.” It became the anthem of the culture of that time. And although the philosophy behind the dream of sixties was flawed and damaging in the extreme, there was more to what it longed for than could have been imagined.
The Bible makes it clear from the very outset that a key component of what it means to be human is not only the capacity to love but also the need to be loved. Love is woven into the very fabric of our nature. The reason for love’s place in our nature is that when God created Adam and Eve, He made them in His image and likeness (Gen. 1:26–27). And, since the God whose image we bear “is love” (1 John 4:8), the love that He is was meant to be reproduced in the very essence of our humanity.
At the most basic level, we see this in the way God relates to people as opposed to other creatures. In Eden, we are told that Adam and Eve “heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8). It seems from this that God regularly drew near to them in this way. There was a closeness in how God related to them that was different from how He related to any other creature. Indeed, even in light of their sin, the fact that they were spared pointed to a divine love and mercy (Gen. 3:15, 21).
This vital strand of what defines humanity as originally created is expanded on and expounded throughout the Bible. It is manifest supremely in God’s sending His Son, not only into the world but onto the cross to secure salvation for His people. It also defines the church as the family of God: universally recognizable by our “love one for another” (John 13:35). It is our supreme motivation to reach the lost with the gospel (2 Cor. 5:14). But love also touches us in our worst moments in life.
This comes out strikingly in a comment from Job as he responds to Eliphaz, one of the friends who came to comfort him in his distress. Wanting to impress on this man that his well-meant counsel had missed the mark, Job says, “He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:14). The Hebrew word translated “kindness” means “loyal love”—the kind of love that lies at the heart of God’s covenant with His people. Job was simply crying out, “I want to be loved!” After the long and painful road this man travels to the end of the book, he is given this reassurance in full by God Himself. But it comes into its full Technicolor glory in the darkness of Calvary.
This longing for love is of the very essence of our deepest need in life, and only when we receive God’s love through salvation in Christ will we become its agents to those around us.