MOREHEAD CITY —

What the world needed most when St. Paul the Apostle was dispatched by God … beginning in A.D. 45 or thereabouts … to spread the Gospel to the people in the Roman province of Galatia was “love, sweet love.”

Tragic events of Aug. 3 and 4, 2019 — the maniacal, gruesome and random shootings that killed more than 30 innocent victims in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio — sent shock waves that rippled across the amber fields of grain on our fruited plain.

Sunday worshippers all across America paused on the morning of Aug. 4 to offer heart-felt, prayers for the deceased, the injured and those who miraculously escaped unscathed … as well as all of their family members and other loved ones.

A clergyman whose voice has resonated is Pastor Randall Branch of Wesley United Methodist Church in Orange, Texas, about 850 miles east of El Paso. The community of 20,000 people on the Sabine River, borders Louisiana.

The Rev. Branch posted online: “I have been praying about the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, asking for God to be with those who have been thrust into a time of grief, healing and perhaps hopelessness. My prayer is that God heal them in every way needed, physically and mentally. My prayers are also for all those who are afflicted with hatred, bigotry and racism, that they too may be healed and come to know the loving grace that God pours out upon all people.”

He continued: “I pray that in all we do and all we say, we are an example of who Christ wants us to be and not who our flesh sometimes calls us to be. You know that ‘loving your neighbor is all inclusive and never exclusive!’”

In the Bible, Paul spoke about the “Fruit of the Spirit,” a listing of nine visible attributes of a true Christian life. These traits are love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control.

Rev. Branch said, “These are not individual ‘fruits’ from which we pick and choose. Rather, the Fruit of the Spirit is one ninefold ‘fruit’ that characterizes all who truly walk in the Holy Spirit … in their lives with Jesus Christ.”

In his writings, the late Michael Bradley, co-founder of Bible Knowledge Ministries of Chesterfield, Mo., said there is significance in the fact that the quality of love is the first mentioned member of the fruit family.

“I do not think this was by accident. There is no doubt that the quality of love is the #1 quality that God would like to get worked into our souls and personalities, Bradley said. “The power of love has the ability to change people and their lives.

“The quality of love is truly universal — as it literally transcends peoples, nations and religions. Love is truly the universal language of this world, and people from all different walks of life recognize it for what it truly is and understand the power that is in it,” he said.

After all these years … since Paul made his three missionary journeys throughout the Mediterranean region in the 1st century … the human race is still trying to get it right.

Two pacifist anthems about love from the 1960s come to mind, and both were performed by rock ‘n’ roll artist Jackie DeShannon. Put them on the record player and let the words spin around in your head and your heart.

Jackie DeShannon recorded “What the World Needs Now is Love” in 1965, written by Burt Bacharach with lyrics by Hal David. It peaked at #7 on the hit parade. The tune contains this familiar refrain:

Oh listen, Lord, if you want to know:

What the world needs now is love, sweet love;

It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of

What the world needs now is love, sweet love,

No, not just for some but for everyone.

Then in 1969, Jackie DeShannon teamed with her younger brother Randy Myers as well as the legendary Jimmy Holiday to compose “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” She sang it, and the record reached #4 on the pop charts.

Think of your fellow man, lend him a helping hand,

Put a little love in your heart.

Another day goes by, and still the children cry,

Put a little love in your heart,

And the world will be a better place …

And the world will be a better place for you and me.

Jackie DeShannon was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010, and her citation mentions that she “broke the glass ceiling for female rock songwriters” in the early 1960s. She will observe her 75th birthday on Aug. 21.

Mike Wagoner is a retired chamber of commerce executive and a public relations counselor. maw04@twc.com blog: wagnabbit.blogspot.com

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