You might not recognize the name Sir Thomas Jones Woodward.
He was the Welch crooner.
A big hit in the 1960s, he’s better known as Tom Jones, one of the most popular vocalists of that rock and roll era. If you’re a Baby Boomer and you didn’t live under a rock, you remember that full-throated baritone.
If you’re younger than that, he’s the guy who lives across the street and works at the local Wendy’s.
Jones had 36 Top 40 songs in the United Kingdom and 19 in the United States.
Among them were It’s Not Unusual, Delilah, She’s a Lady and the country hit, Green ,Green Grass of Home.
One of Jones’ songs, Without Love, was particularly soulful, even for him.
It’s a song about the futility and emptiness of a life Without Love.
After saying that “To live for today and to love for tomorrow is the wisdom of a fool,” Jones began to sing his sad song:
“I awakened this morning, I was filled with despair All my dreams turned to ashes and gone, oh yeah As I looked at my life it was barren and bare Without love I’ve had nothing at all.”
Then the rousing chorus is where the Baby Boomer Karaoke singers join in:
“Without love I’ve had nothing Without love I’ve had nothing at all I have conquered the world All but one thing did I have Without love I’ve had nothing at all.”
OK, hold on, hold on!
Did you see the little bearded guy in a robe, sandals and thick-lensed glasses singing in the back?
Yeah, that guy!
He’s not Tom. His name is Paul.
Paul the Apostle.
He loves this song. In fact, Paul argues that he was the inspiration behind Jones’ lyrics.
In that well-known and beloved classic found in the 13th chapter of his first letter to the church at Corinth, written two thousand years ago, the great apostle begins with the very affirmation – the theme – of the old rock song:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (verse 1, NKJV).
Words, no matter how smooth, are nothing but meaningless noise without love. Eloquence is no match for authenticity.
“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (verse 2, NKJV, emphasis added).
Keen spiritual insights, vast biblical knowledge and mountain-moving faith may astound the crowds and make you a celebrity in Christendom but devoid of love you are nothing. A Doctor of Ministry degree may impress a church but without love you’ll be a lousy pastor.
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (verse 3, NKJV, emphasis added).
You may give away money like Carnegie, serve like Mother Teresa and sacrifice like Joan of Arc but if you do not have love it all goes up in smoke.
You would have gained nothing – nothing at all.
Paul begins this beautiful tribute to love by first of all declaring the primacy, centrality and essential quality of this fruit of the Holy Spirit.
By love our character is defined and refined and made sublime.
You may conquer the world and lack just one thing. But what’s missing can turn your dreams to ashes and render your life barren and bare.
Because, writes Paul, you are nothing, nothing at all.
From Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame to It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol, love – or the absence of it – has been transformative to the human soul.
God’s story about us is a love story, culminating in its ultimate expression on the cross.
The love of which Paul writes “is patient and kind … is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out” (verse 4-6, NLT).
Here is where Paul adds practicality to supremacy. Love in its work clothes.
I take that checklist and study it and realize again how often I fall short of the great love of God. But it also gives me much to work toward and reminds me that without love I have nothing – and I am nothing.
Nothing at all.
Forrest Gump knew what love was. Tragically, our culture does not.
This Valentine’s Day weekend, Fifty Shades of Grey will open to packed theaters. Thousands will experience a voyeuristic pornographic film celebration of sadomasochism. It is a cold and violent and brutal mockery of everything that is good, pure and noble about love.
And a clear symbol of how far America has slouched toward the moral abyss.
For those of us who choose not to go, this weekend is an opportunity to renew our genuine love – for one another and for God.
And to remember that without love we have nothing – nothing at all.
May God bless you and your family.