My son turned 14 last week. For his birthday we bought him tickets to see his favorite artist in concert, so Monday night we drove down to Omaha for a Jack White concert. I’m not sure how he got so into Jack White. I’m more of a Foo Fighters fan, but I remember playing the song Sixteen Saltines when he was younger. Now he knows every song, every album, and strange details about Jack White’s recording studio. In March I made a trip to Grand Rapids, and on my way out the door he told me to go visit Third Man Records in Detroit. He seemed disgusted that I didn’t make the trip.
Traveling down I-29, we were jamming out to the new record, when he asked me, “What do you think Jack White’s message is?” “I don’t know, good question.” I answered. A deep question for a 14 year old. I tucked it away and went back to rocking out at 70 miles an hour. The show was great; Jack White is a great guitar player, a throw back to old school, blues infused, rock. He played a mix of old and new songs, with sweet riffs, and long guitar solos. In the middle of the show he played a new song, Connected by Love. When it was over, he said to the crowd, “Omaha, let me tell you a secret. There is no hell! God loves you too much.” He said it multiple times, each time getting louder and louder. At that moment my PhD academic nerd mind kicked in. I looked at the crowd, many caught up in a spiritual experience. They were singing with their eyes closed, arms wrapped around their boyfriends and girlfriends, hands waving in the air. I remember my son’s question: what’s his message? It seemed pretty clear…
I brought it up on the way home. I asked what he thought about White’s comment, and whether he thought that was his message. I told my son that I thought the concert was great, and that White’s music has a depth to it that you don’t always find in popular music. The images on the screen behind him showed exploding stars and black holes, framed by people holding hands, expressing their love for each other. “God loves you too much!” I thought of the concert goers I met—hipster beards, tattoos, even Slayer t-shirts. And here is Jack White declaring God’s love for all of them. Regardless of how we might feel about hell, it was moving.
The past few Sundays I’ve been preaching on the book of John. Recently, we heard the new commandment Jesus gave his disciples, that we are to love one another in the same way God has loved us. In a world full of violence and hatred, at a time when people are divided by politics, religion, and every social issue you can imagine, we need to be reminded of God’s love. This morning I’m grateful for Jack White, great music, and a son who asks really good questions.