The Episcopal Church has been running a campaign for the past decade or so which says, “God loves you. No exceptions.” It is absolutely true. It wouldn’t be a bad slogan for the Catholic Church to kick around. It is defiantly a part of our theology and perhaps not expressed often enough.
Jesus, of course, demonstrated this. Did he limit Himself to just loving those who got straight As in school and only crossed the street at the crosswalk? No. He hung out with prostitutes, talked with Samaritan women, and cured a Roman guard’s servant. God loves every one of His creation.
The problem is with leaving the statement there. God does love you. But what does that mean? Coming to realize that God loves you requires a response. Love requires a response. “This is me, love me or get away” is not part of the relationship of love. Jesus loved the prostitutes but he didn’t love them because they were prostitutes. He had something better in mind for them. To have an encounter with Jesus was to know that God loves you. But is also an encounter with the perfect being. Part of His gift to you is to lift you up, raise your dignity, your sense of worth, to expand your freedom, increase joy, and push you toward the ideal. Who in Scripture did Jesus leave exactly as they were? Those that had no intention of changing never became part of His circle. That does not mean that He did not love them. He even loved the soldiers putting Him to death, but if He couldn’t work with them, He moved on.
When the Catholic Church says, “Jesus loves you, no exceptions,” she does not mean, “So therefore you need not change one iota.” It means, “Jesus loves you and He wants MORE for you. More life. More freedom. More healing. A greater capacity for love. A broader notion of who you are. Love with God is a relationship that requires a response. It will not leave you stationary. (If it does, something is very wrong.) This is ride to someplace beloved one. Get ready for a journey.”