Congregants of a suburban Chicago megachurch initiated a "love" campaign to counter ugly presidential campaign rhetoric as well as concerning cultural developments. Pastor Steve Carter of the Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., said the initiative also in response to racism and recent world events, including wars in the Middle East.
As of Monday, the biblically inspired slogan "Love Everyone, Always" will appear on electronic billboards in a Chicago train station, on a billboard along the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway and several other locations, reports the Chicago Tribune. Volunteers also will hand out the slogan on bumper stickers, and it will appear on yard signs and T-shirts.
"When you look at all the negativity in this election cycle, we kept coming back to, what does it mean to live out the teachings of Jesus?" he said in a Tribune interview. "We kept coming back to the commandment where Jesus tells us to love our neighbor."
"Jesus invites us to love everyone, always. The people who don't look like us, vote like us, or act like us-God still deeply loves them. We want to be a church that loves, respects, serves, and welcomes everyone, always," stated Willow Creek representatives on the church's Facebook page.
Carter said as the campaign continues, the word "love" will be replaced by other commands, including "respect," ''serve" and "forgive."
Starting Oct. 22 and 23, Willow Creek's new weekend series will focus on love, forgiveness, and acceptance amidst a heated time in the United States around politics and the election. Over the next weeks leading up to the election and after, the church will spend each weekend encouraging their congregation to love, forgive, accept, respect, and encourage everyone, always. "I believe you've never looked into the eyes of someone who does not matter to God," said Willow Creek's Senior Pastor Bill Hybels.
Willow Creek Community Church has more than 25,000 members, across eight campuses in and around Chicago. The congregation started in 1972.