Some of you may have figured this out already, but the title I used for this morning’s message is a fragment from a 1970s song by Jackie DeShannon and I’d imagine just about all of you can now COMPLETE that title…it’s “What the world needs now is…LOVE, SWEET LOVE”…yeah, I knew you could do it.

And that’s what I want to talk about today, because I believe there is a whole WORLD of truth in that song title.  This old world really NEEDS a good dose of “Love, sweet love”…maybe now more than ever.

But at the same time we need to remember there are many different kinds of love.  There’s BROTHERLY love and there’s the love of ENEMIES.  There’s CONJUGAL love, and there’s the love of FAMILIES.  And there’s the love OF God and love FOR God.  And the world NEEDS all of them.

CONJUGAL love; the love between a husband and wife, probably gets the most attention, because it requires the most work.  Sam Levinson once said “Love at first sight is no big deal.  It’s when two people have been looking at each other for YEARS and still in love, THAT’S the MIRACLE!”

Or, there was this young boy who was getting his first inkling of human mortality, and he asked his mom, “If daddy should die, do you think there’s another man anywhere who would be just LIKE him”?  And his mom said, “There just might be son.  And if there is, it’d be just my luck to end up with him”!

MOST marriages start out with ROMANTIC love, and that’s fine.  It’s been said that marriage BEGINS when she SINKS into his arms, and ends up with her ARMS in his SINK!  Romantic love is fine, but as time goes by, that romantic love has got to CHANGE into NURTURING love, or that marriage is in trouble.

And the same thing is true of our relationship with the Lord.  After their FIRST encounter with the Lord, when people REALLY MEET Him, and UNDERSTAND how much HE loves them, and what He has done FOR them, MANY people are just on FIRE for Him, just BUBBLING OVER with love for Him, and eager to SHARE that love with EVERYONE they know.

But it’s a really RARE thing to find that same man or woman, say 15 years later, with still the same tireless ZEAL for The Lord.  And that’s not to say, that they love Him any LESS.  It just means that ZEAL has MATURED, and GROWN!  And that initial emotional exuberance has given way to a DEEPER, ABIDING Faith, which they will gladly share with ANYone!

Of course there’s the story of a young man just returning to work after his HONEYMOON, and being contacted by an insurance agent, who told him “Now that you’re married, you’d probably better purchase a lot more LIFE insurance”.  To which the young man replied “I don’t think I need any more.  I know her pretty well by now, and I just don’t think she’s all that DANGEROUS”!

Yeah, I’ve always thought we need a lot more humor in our churches.  It’s a great way to make a point and a great way to relieve stress.  In fact there’s this story I wanted to share with you, but couldn’t find anywhere that it FIT, so I’ll just DUMP it on you.  There was a teacher who took her class to the zoo, and she was showing them all the different animals, and asking them if they could identify them.

And they were doing pretty good until they came to this one animal that looked like it had a big HAT RACK growing out of its head.  And that one stumped them.  So she said “I’ll give you a hint.  It’s the same name your MOMMY calls your DADDY”.  And one kid piped up and said “So THAT’S what a BABOON looks like”!

So anyhow, back to speaking about LOVE, in the text we read from Paul’s letter to the Romans.  He affirms what Jesus had taught, many years earlier.  That at the HEART of the Christian Faith, is the LAW of LOVE!  And he wrote “Owe no man anything, but to love one another.  For he that loves another has FULFILLED the Law.”

And here WE are, nearly 2000 years later, and just the OPPOSITE of that is mostly true now.  We are a nation of people who are deeply in debt, and LOVE is becoming more and more SCARCE.

Paul also wrote “Love does no harm to a neighbor, therefore Love is the fulfillment of the Law”.  But today, when two neighbors have a disagreement as likely as not, one of them will try to BURN the other’s house down.  Or maybe get a GUN and start SHOOTING.  And the LAW of God is not being fulfilled, because the LOVE of God is not being FELT!

And what the world needs now, is LOVE, sweet LOVE!  But that is NOT what we’re getting.  And it is LOVE that has kept the Christian Church alive, and moving forward, all these years.

Reverend Don Fredericks, a past president of IFCA, was fond of saying that “Independent churches needs each other, because there is no such thing as a ‘Lone Ranger Church’, standing all by itself against the tide of evil that is sweeping this land”.

And I’ll say the SAME thing is true about individual CHRISTIANS.  To BE a Christian means to be a part of the FAMILY of God…a part of a FELLOWSHIP…a part of a BODY, CHRIST’S Body, here on the earth.

Remember what Jesus taught us.  “Where two or three are gathered together in MY NAME, there am I, in the midst of them.”  We need to listen to what the Lord said…”Where two or three are gathered together…”.  You are ALWAYS going to run into people who will tell you they don’t NEED the church.  They’ll say that they can worship God, out on the GOLF course, or out on the TROUT stream, on Sunday morning, just as easy as they could in a place where the Lord has placed His Name.

But even though they’re trying to JUSTIFY their actions, they are as WRONG as they can be.  Jesus said “Where two or three are gathered IN MY NAME”!  And GOD has said we are to worship Him, WHERE HE HAS PLACED HIS NAME!

So, unless you can find a golf course NAMED after, and DEDICATED to, Jehovah God, and Jesus Christ, His Son, you had better come to CHURCH to worship Him.

But listen, the Christian Faith is a LOVING relationship…a loving relationship with GOD and a loving relationship with other Christians within the Body of Christ, which is His Church.  And you will ignore either one of those relationships, at the expense of the other.

Now, Love has the power to HEAL our bodies, or at least SPEED the healing process.  Researchers at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota have conducted an experiment, and I know this sounds harsh, but it was done as tenderly as possible, within the parameters of the experiment.  But they took two very similar dogs, litter-mates, and after anesthetizing them, BROKE one leg of each dog and then carefully SET the break.

Then the two dogs were placed in different environments.  ONE was placed in a kennel where it had a comfortable bed, plenty of food and water and the temperature was kept at a constant level.  Every provision was made for the dog’s physical comfort while it recuperated from the injury.  But it was given ONLY care, NOT loving attention from its handlers.

The other dog was placed in identical surroundings, but was also given PLENTY of affection and praise and attention from ITS handlers.  The RESULT of the experiment was that the dog that was LOVED, recovered nearly TWICE as fast as the other.  And LOVE was the only difference!

In the same way, Harry Reasoner, when he was still with “60 Minutes”, reported on another study that was done, concerning people WITH pets, who had suffered from a heart condition that required major surgery…the people, not the pet.

They picked 100 people in that category that HAD pets, and 100 that DIDN’T have pets.  At the end of one year, 1/3 of the people without pets had died, compared with only ONE in the group WITH pets had died.

Now, those results aren’t really surprising, to a lot of elderly or single people.  Many know that pets can take the place of missing family or friends, and provide a tremendous source of unconditional affection.

In fact, some people even go so far as to say that pets are BETTER than people!  There was one elderly lady who said she had no need of a MAN in her life, as she has a DOG that is always glad to see her when she comes home, and she has a cat that stinks up the house and stays out all night…what does she need a man for?

But anyway, experiments like those show positive proof of the DYNAMIC power of love.  Dr. Donald Andrews, professor emeritus of the chemistry department at John Hopkins University, puts it this way…“Raise one finger in the air and wiggle it”.  And I want everybody to DO that.  Raise one finger in the air…NO, NOT THAT ONE!!!…raise THIS finger, and wiggle it.  Now, according to Dr. Andrews, what you have just done is to affect the relationship of EVERY single atom in the UNIVERSE!  He said the atomic nature of the universe is so SENSITIVE, that you can’t move a FINGER, without affecting every atom in the universe.

The MOLECULES of oxygen and nitrogen next to your finger are composed of atoms, and they are disturbed when you WIGGLE that finger, which causes THEM to disturb the atoms next to THEM, which disturbs the atoms next to THEM…and so on, all the way across the universe.

It’s like dropping a stone into a still pool of water, which causes RIPPLES to spread all the way across the pool.  And if that is true of the PHYSICAL universe, it can only be MORE true, in terms of our SPIRITUAL relationships with one another.

That’s why poet John Donne wrote that famous line “No man is an island, complete unto himself”.  The Law of Love says you are NOT an isolated individual, adrift in a sea of isolation.  We are a FAMILY…a FELLOWSHIP.  We compose a SINGLE BODY, the earthly Body of Jesus Christ.  WE are HIS Body, now on earth.

And as such, we are supposed to be a UNIFYING force of love and compassion.  That’s our MISSION in the world.  So, if WE can sense that LOVE is LACKING in this world, WHO should we look to for the solution?

There’s the story of a Christian Missionary woman serving in China.  She would take abandoned girls into her own home.  This was during the time when girl babies were seen as inferior to boy babies.

She started out by simply taking one small girl-child who she found just abandoned by the side of the road, thrown away like so much garbage…she took that poor child into her home, to raise as her own.  But she soon heard of another abandoned girl-baby, and she took that one in too.

And then another.  And then a few more.  And then TEN more.  Then TWENTY!  And then forty.  She fed them, clothed them, loved them and cared for them.  Over the years she took in HUNDREDS of unwanted Chinese babies.  And she taught each of them the Gospel.  And when they were grown, she sent them out into the world as decent, responsible human beings.  She spent all of her life and livelihood in this way.

And when this Missionary lady died, the epitaph on her tombstone contained only seven words.  “She has done what she couldn’t do.”  That is an example of Christian love, at its finest.

The Christian Church is BASED on love, and it began as a missionary movement.  Out of HIS Love for us, God sent His SON, Jesus.  And out of HIS love for us, JESUS laid down HIS LIFE for us.

And His example caused the DISCIPLES, those who were the closest TO Him, to go out and lay down THEIR lives, for others still.  And in an unbroken chain, that love has come down to US, here today.

And since WE have now benefited from the love of others, what are WE going to do, WITH that love?  Do we HOARD it to ourselves, and sit back with satisfaction, while our souls shrivel up?  OR, do we commit the love that WE have so freely received, to OTHERS, who need it so badly?

That’s our choice, to make it, or not.  We who have SEEN the Love of God, demonstrated at the Cross of Calvary, do we KEEP it to ourselves, or do we BROADCAST it, to the world?

There’s a story about the King of Persia, Cyrus, who had brought before him the WIFE of one of his generals.  She was charged with making TREASONOUS statements against the king, while her husband was away at war.

She was put on trial, convicted, and condemned to die!  Her husband did not HEAR about it, until the trial was OVER.  He rushed to be at her side and arrived JUST as the punishment was about to be carried out.

The general threw himself on the ground at the feet of the King, and pleaded with him to take HIS life, instead of his wife’s.  “Sire”, he begged, “let ME die in her place.  Let ME take her punishment!”

The king was so TOUCHED by this heartfelt plea that he said “Love like that must not be spoiled by death” and he GAVE the wife back to the husband, and let them both live and go free.

As they walked away, so relieved and happy, the husband, who had been touched by the COMPASSION the King bad shown, said to his wife “Did you see how kindly the King looked upon us, as he gave his pardon”?

But the wife said “No.  I had no eyes for the King.  I saw only the MAN who was willing to DIE, in my place”.

On the Cross of Calvary, we have seen the One Who was willing to DIE, in OUR place!  It is WE who are guilty, every ONE of us!  And we are all DESERVING of death.  And can you look at the CROSS, and see there the One Who took upon Himself, the punishment that WE have all earned?

Remember, God has decreed that “The wages of sin, is DEATH”.  And we ALL have sinned, maybe not great BIG sins, like MURDER…but have you ever told a LIE, even a LITTLE lie?  That’s sin.  Have you ever had a DIRTY thought OR an UNKIND thought?  That’s sin, and that EARNS the WAGES of sin, which IS death.  That’s not a MINIMUM wage, it’s a MAXIMUM wage, and we ALL have earned it.

But then JESUS stepped into history, and He PAID that debt, for ALL of us!  And when you realize THAT, and when we realize that, in response to the LOVE that was poured out at Calvary, we should realize that we CAN’T live our lives, concerned ONLY with ourselves.

So, when you think of LOVE, and your response TO it, think of the word “JOY”, and think of it as an ACROSTIC…where the initials J…O…Y…help us to better BROADCAST that love of God.

So, “J” is for Jesus…and the FIRST recipient OF that love we so freely received, should be for the One Who loves US enough to take OUR penalty FOR us.

And “O” is for OTHERS.  God’s Love is not given to us, to HOARD but so we can GIVE it AWAY!  Compare God’s Love to a HOLE in the ground, where the MORE you take FROM it, the BIGGER it becomes.  God’s Love is like that.  The more you give away, the more YOU HAVE!

And then the “Y” stands for YOURSELF.  When you have freely given God’s Love to others, who desperately NEED it, you’ll find that by giving it away you have so much MORE for yourself, than you started with.

THAT is the dynamic Law of Love.  Love is the most important FORCE and SUBSTANCE in the WORLD.  It can heal BODIES, it can heal SOULS, and it can give you a MOTIVATION for LIVING.

Complete, unconditional, undeserved LOVE, came into this world, in the event we will soon be celebrating, as the BIRTH of our Savior.  And he is now calling us, those for whom He has Died, to SHARE that Love with the world.  Because all those OTHER people out there, are ALSO those for whom He has Died.

And HOW can they KNOW that, unless you TELL them?  That’s what Paul wrote, in Romans 10:14…“How can they BELIEVE in Him of Whom they have not HEARD”…and that means SOMEONE has to TELL them.

That ‘someone’ is ME, and it’s YOU.  And when we learn that Truth, we learn the REASON we were CREATED.  And THAT is this.  The Love of God, living IN us, can CHANGE the WORLD…one person at a time.  So let me tell you again this morning how GLAD I am that you are here, and we’re going to go down to the fellowship Hall in just a minute to have a GREAT meal…we have some really good cooks here, and I’m looking forward to loading up a plate.

But first I want to invite YOU, in all the Love of God, to come TO Him this morning, if you’ve never done so before…to come and accept His Free Gift of Salvation and KNOW that YOU are FORGIVEN of every mean or unkind thing you’ve ever done.  Come and KNOW that Heaven will one day be your home, by virtue of God’s Amazing Love.

And I’ll invite you to come and make a PUBLIC commitment to SHARE His Love with those around you, and if you make that commitment, HE will put folks in your path to share it WITH!

And I’ll invite you to come and LAY DOWN that BURDEN you’ve been carrying, for way too long.  Like the man called “CHRISTIAN”, in “Pilgrim’s Progress”, struggling daily with the TRIALS and CARES of the world, carrying on his back all the while that heavy burden, until he FINALLY finds the Lord, and lays the burden down.

And that can be you, and you don’t have to wait.  The Lord is here with us now, and He never intended for you to go through life burdened.  So BRING it to HIM and let HIM take it FROM YOU.  And please, do it now!  Don’t wait another minute!  Come…thou beloved of the Lord…and be made free today!