Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who was talking about a person who completely drives them crazy? Have you ever heard a person talk about how they just don’t like someone? Have you ever known someone that has been difficult to like? It’s common, and in honesty I’ve had a few people in life that, like Rick Warren talks about, are just a little extra grace required.
As people who follow Jesus we often don’t know what to do when we don’t like someone. We know deep within that we are to love others deeeply. We understand that as followers of Jesus we are to love every person with whom we come in contact. This creates a problem when our lives cross paths with someone that just rubs us the wrong way. Somehow this irritation needed to be justified by others in the past, so a new theology was created. I’m sure you’ve heard it, “I love them, but I don’t have to like them!”
Let me say that one more time. “I love him, I love her, but I don’t like him, but I don’t like her!” In someway this statement justifies our irritation or discomfort and justifies negative thoughts or emotions towards the person. I’ve heard this phrase from pulpits, preachers, dedicated followers of Jesus, authors and the like. It is a very popular belief and is in fact a lie.
The theological idea that we can love and not like is simply untrue.
Paul talks in both Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 about the body. He uses this powerful analogy to demonstrate how many parts and functions create one, beautiful fully functional and glorious body. Each part has value. Each part has equal value. Each part is beautiful. Each part is purposeful. Each part is experienced differently. Each part is needed. Our differences, that often are seen as irritants are in fact necessary parts of the body. Paul goes on to talk in 1 Corinthians 13 that all these parts are well and good, but if they perform their function absent of love, then the function is simply noise. Let’s see what love looks like: Love is patient. Love is Kind. Love does not envy. Love does not boast. Love is not rude. Love is not self-seeking. Love keeps no record of wrong. Love always trusts. Love always hopes. Love always perseveres. Love never fails.
As I read that description, I do not feel the freedom to say that I can not like someone and love them at the same time. I’ve come to realize that liking someone is all about me. I like certain colors, music, movies and such. I like something when it brings me enjoyment. Liking is a very self driven concept. It is a concept that drives me to avoid things that make me uncomfortable and ideas with which I don’t agree. Not liking something, an object, idea or place is completely understandable and is encouraged when seeking to live a life that follows after the way of Jesus. Not liking certain actions or behaviors is understandable as there are behaviors and actions that are contrary to what is good and right and perfect. But people are a whole different story.
People are the only thing in all of creation made image of God. Each person, was created with intension and purpose. Each person has a heart, mind, personality and way that was made with incredible intentionality. Psalm 139:13-17 says, “For you create my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast the sum of them!
Wow! Every single person was made by Creator God. Even those that drive me crazy. Even those who think and live differently. Even those who believe differently. Every single person bares the image of Creator.
I struggle loving all people. There are some that think so differently than me that I often jump to judgement and then I easily discount them by saying, I don’t have to like you, but I love you.
True love actually enables our ability to like. I have a friend who modeled this to me. She would have a colleague who would drive her crazy and instead of talking about how much that person irritated her, she would pray that God would give them one connection point. Without fail, God answered her prayer and these once annoying and irritating people, became friends. She laid herself down and sought to see the image of God in those around her. Every time, God revealed his image. And, when we see the image of God, it makes it pretty impossible to not like someone.
Yes, there are people who think differently. There are people who will drive you crazy. There are those who are so different that connection or enjoyment seems impossible. But, love is patient and kind and it’s not self-seeking. This kind of love drives us to pursue connection and enjoyment of those around us who are also image bearers.
So next time your path crosses with someone who just gets under your skin, instead of writing them off and justifying it in some way. Pray that you will see the image of God in him or her and love with action!