I passed a church sign on my way to work. It said, “Welcome – you are loved.” Hmmm! Is it appropriate to say of someone you have never seen or met, “I love you?” Don’t misunderstand me. I know we Christians are supposed love everyone. We know that. But, to the non-believers who drive past the church sign, how do they receive that impersonal affection? The implication is that we already love you, even though you are a faceless person in a sea of people. It reminds me of getting valentine’s cards in the 4th grade that didn’t have my name on it or the person’s name who gave it. Here is your obligatory expression of love given to you by someone.
I would rather see a sign that reads, “You are welcome! We are a loving and accepting congregation.” That may be a bit wordy. How about, “Welcome, God loves you and we will do our best.” Or, “Welcome, we know in advance that we are going to love you.” That might make a great song. “I may not have met you in a restaurant or bar, but please know that I love you no matter who you are.”
Scripture admonishes us to love. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” “Through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13 and 14).” Scripture, however, does not instruct us to love with the words, “I love you” disconnected from a real, live person. The expression is good but the impression is about as cold as the customer service robot answering service, or the 911 operator that answers, “We care about your call. Please hold.”
“You are loved.” You really are. I want you to be assured that despite my complaint about tossing that statement out into the thin air and hoping it lands on someone, I do indeed love you . . . whoever you are. I’m totally sincere. Honestly! You are a totally unknown body of flesh with a personality all your own, exhibiting signs of life and belonging to the human race that lives on planet earth. And, I love you. Maybe I should add a few exclamation marks to make that more believable. I love you!!!!! Got it? Hey! I’m talking to you. You person you.