Do I have to like someone to love them?

December 22, 2015

“I know I am commanded to love people, but do I have to like them?”

Have you ever wondered about that?  It’s a question I get nearly every time I teach on the “loving one another.”  Here are the two answers I typically give:

No, you don’t.

Let’s be honest.  There are people we click with and people we don’t.  There are people we would love to go on vacation with and people that take a toll on us after a five minute conversation.  There are people that are, in very tangible ways, our enemies.  It’s hard to say that I like someone who treats me as their enemy.

But I am still commanded to love them.  Not just fake love, but real love.

One of the verses we covered this week was:

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
(1 John 3:18)

John Calvin once wrote, “It is difficult to express how ingenious almost all men are in counterfeiting a love which they do not really possess.”  We must not be like that!  We must love “in truth.”  And here is how we love:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(1 Corinthians 13:4—7)

Is that hard to do with someone you don’t like?  Yup, but you must do it anyway.  And when you love like this, it changes you.

Which is why “no” isn’t the only answer I give to the question.  Here’s my second:

Yes, you do.

When I say to myself, “I am going to love this person, but I am not going to like them,” it says more about me than them.  Often, it betrays that I have been hurt or burned or annoyed by this other person for so long that I am holding a bitter, unforgiving attitude toward them.

That is not love.  Love doesn’t hold onto sin; quite the opposite, it covers sin:

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
(1 Peter 4:8)

Notice how the Apostle Paul describes love:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
(Romans 12:9—10)

The love you show someone must be in deed, in truth, earnest, genuine, affectionate, and honoring.  Instead of holding onto bitterness, your love must cover over the sins committed against you, just as Jesus’ love covers over your sin.

As you love someone like that, over time, it will become hard not to like them.

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