I click on an email and see it yet again – another email with “Hello!” as the salutation. As I spend much of my life looking at email, I can safely say that such a greeting has become very common.
My sense is that this happens for various reasons:
1. I will admit that when I read such a salutation, I tend to think it is an address by someone who hasn’t learned to communicate in a business world. Back when I was in school learning proper business etiquette, we learned to use “To Whom It May Concern” when we didn’t have a person’s name. Perhaps “Hello!” is today’s “To Whom It May Concern.” Perhaps.
2. The email is a marketing email using a tactic meant to insinuate a relationship that isn’t really there. As if you are my friend, and you are attempting to greet me warmly.
3. It could be an email to a group where the writer can’t address everyone by name.
When such a salutation is most distressing, however, is when the writer knows me personally or at least has access to my name, and for some reason chooses not to use it. Why don’t they use my name? If they only casually know me, do they just not want to take the time to confirm my name or how to spell it? It strikes me as very impersonal. As if they don’t care about me at all, and they are just looking for help. If you are emailing me, isn’t it worth using my name? Aren’t you in fact emailing “Sharon” and not “Hello!” Shall I write back and conclude my email with, “Sincerely, Hello!”?
This makes me think about names in the Bible, which are very important. And God’s name is of supreme significance. His name represents his character. He is our Father. He is Holy. He is the LORD. I wonder if some people pray in the same way they write emails. “Hello, up there, whoever you are.” This is no way to approach the God of the universe. You either know him or you don’t. And if you know him, you should know and use his names, which represent who he is in his essence. Each name tells us something about who he is, and he is not unknown to us for he reveals himself to us in his Word.
In Acts 17, Paul says, “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”
Our God is not an unknown deity, and we shouldn’t approach him in an impersonal way which implies we just want to receive help, but we don’t care about who he is.
My encouragement today is twofold. First, think about the names of God and respond accordingly. Praise his holy name (Ps. 30:4). Trust in the name of the Lord our God (Ps. 20:7). Remember that his name is a strong tower (Prov. 18:14). Pray to Him by name.
Secondly, if you know someone’s name, use it. (You do it with Alexa and Siri, don't you?)