In 1965 Jackie DeShannon recorded the hit song "What the World Needs Now is Love". Three years later Dion recorded a song called "Abraham, Martin and John". In 1971 a Los Angeles disc jockey named Tom Clay combined those tunes with some news audio clips to create a powerful social commentary. What the World Needs Now by Tom Clay covers the two songs with versions by The Blackberries, a session recording group from LA. The record begins with a child trying to define some grown-up words like segregation and prejudice. It is a powerful reminder that although all of us are born with a sin nature a lot of how we act on that nature is learned behavior.
Interviewer: What is segregation?
Child: I don't know what seggeration is.
Interviewer: Uh, what is bigotry?
Child: I don't know what biggery is.
Then Clay powerfully integrates excerpts of speeches by John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ted Kennedy's eulogy for his brother. Those moments are intercut with soundbites of news coverage from their tragic deaths. I realize now with the perspective of age how volatile our country was during that period. My parents rarely shared their fears but they must have wondered if my generation would have any hope at all with the violence and hatred running wild. Hearing those heart wrenching sound bites mixed in with the lyrics from Abraham, Martin and John still generates an emotional response as I remember the uncertainly and fear of that era.
It is so moving to hear Martin Luther King's rousing speech about being to the mountaintop. Listening to Ted Kennedy's eulogy of another Kennedy brother senselessly killed is sobering four decades later. Ted Kennedy's memorable quote about his brother ties in to recent articles wondering if there is still hope for the church to influence a revival in our land. Kennedy said this about his brother.
Some men see things
As they are, and say why
I dream things that never were
And say why not
I would paraphrase that as my prayer for the church.
Some men see Christians
Falling short and say why
I pray for revival that will change their hearts
And say why can't God do that?
During the record the interviewer asks the child to define prejudice. The child pauses a moment and then replies. "Umm, I think it's when somebody's sick."
Spot on. All of us have been sick in our sin and continue to be to some degree. Christians are forgiven, justified and righteous because of Christ but (and this is a big but) we are saints who still sometimes sin. Only total dependence and surrender to God will allow that revival to begin.
I don't know if those responses from those children were real or scripted but I do know that Jesus asked us to have the trusting heart of a child as we read in a story recorded in the Gospel of Luke.
"Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn't receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it." (Luke 18, NLT)
Jesus is not saying that I should act childish and immature. He meant that I must have that child-like trust, dependence, surrender to authority and need for relationship. Theologian Karl Barth was known for his scholarship and intellect. He was once asked to sum up his theology in a few words. His response was simple and, if you ever been near a Sunday School, familiar.
Clay's hit remix finishes with these lyrics.
What the world needs now
Is love, sweet love
No, not just for some
But for everyone
That was true then and it is still true today. But the world needs more than just love. We need the love of Jesus lived out sacrificially in our homes and communities and culture. We need love that runs down the parallel tracks of truth and grace. Christians that only preach truth can be moralists. Christians that don't understand grace can unwittingly promote license. Christians who proclaim grace and truth can be revolutionaries that spur revival. And that is really what the world needs now.