The B-52’s, an enormously popular new wave rock band started in the 70s, is most widely known for its biggest hit song, “The Love Shack.” It has won numerous awards, and was the bands first million-copy seller. The song was released the year I was born, 1989. Despite the song’s age, it remains a staple at parties, in stores, and on the radio. It’s message seems to be timeless…though there has been a large amount of arguing over what the song’s message actually is. For some reason I’ve always liked the song. Perhaps it’s the catchy tune, or the funky dance moves in the video. Perhaps it’s the eclectic mix of singing, yelling, and talking. Perhaps it’s just the idea of a getaway. Maybe it’s even that the idea of a place dedicated to love is appealing.
It might offend the sensitivities of a lot of people if I compared the church to the love shack. Brows might be raised, heads might be shaken, and eyes might be rolled. It is, however, a fitting comparison. At least, it should be. I’ve often found myself confused by the utter lack of love in some churches. It is almost as if some people believe that the church is a good place to hide from the world. The church is, on occasion, nothing more than an elite Christian club. If a person does not dress a certain way, talk a certain way, or act a certain way, he may not be admitted. If he is admitted, it may be grudgingly. Recently I visited two churches of different denominations. I wore nearly the same outfit to each one, and showed up with no Bible in hand. I equipped myself with jeans, a black t-shirt, a slightly rebellious glare, and lots of eye makeup. I sat in the last row for each service with my arms crossed over my chest. I regret to say that at the first church, not one person said “Hi” to me. Suspicious glances, raised eyebrows, and a few snickers was the extent of that congregation’s communication with me. At the second church, however, I found myself completely unable to keep the rebellious glare on my face. I was greeted by at least twenty different people. One of the choir ladies sat down next to me and spent five minutes instructing me in the use of the hymnal. Every single person that looked at me smiled genuinely. At least ten people shook my hand as I left and expressed their desire that I come back, because they hadn’t had a proper chance to talk to me. I was utterly amazed at the love shown by the members of that church, even when they had every reason to believe that I was not a Christian, or “one of them.”
The first two lines of the chorus of the song read, “The love shack is a little old place where we can get together!” It is an inviting, happy statement, full of anticipation and excitement. Should not the church also be an inviting, happy place, where we can get together? In those places where it is not, it is due to an incorrect definition of “we.” Humanity has a terrible habit of splitting itself into groups. It can easily be argued that these divisions are helpful to society and to the persons belonging to the said groups. Unfortunately, it is impossible to make every group content. When one group is cared for, it is usually at the exclusion of another group. The “us and them” mentality always causes someone to suffer, to be neglected, to be forgotten. But, as long as the group to which we personally belong is cared for, we are satisfied in ignoring the others.
John 15 contains one of my favorite Scriptures. It is astonishing in its simplicity, yet profound in its implications. Verse 12 reads, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” These are the words of Jesus. If any person had a right to be in a group, it was Jesus. The Son of God, the Creator of the universe, the Alpha and Omega, the spotless Lamb – certainly we wouldn’t expect God to place himself into our group. But He did, and commanded His disciples to love as they had been loved: with no restrictions, with no prerequisites, with no judgments on their outward appearance or inward state of disarray. They were commanded to love sacrificially, though they were not yet aware of sacrifice’s full extent. They were commanded to love totally, for Jesus did not love them only in part. They were commanded to love the unloveable with the same intensity that they loved the societally “acceptable,” for Jesus did not discriminate in love between Judas Iscariot and John.
They were commanded to love as Jesus had loved them…and He had loved them even when they themselves were not yet included in the “we.” The unspoken question that the two lines at the beginning of the chorus raise is, “What if we don’t like who shows up?” The only acceptable answer is to love. The church should be a place where we can “get together,” where anyone and everyone is viewed through the lens of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, and where the presence of love is so overwhelming that people can say, in the words of the last line of the chorus, “that’s where it’s at.”