Loving people you do not necessarily like

Church bulletin:

It is just a fact of life some people are not overly likable. And we know what the Bible says: Matt 5:43-48, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect”.

Is it possible to actually love someone that you do not like? Not only is it possible, it is absolutely necessary. You can and should love people who irritate you; people who make it obvious they do not like you; people who have wronged you; people you would prefer to avoid.

Loving someone and liking them is not the same thing. We like those whose company we enjoy; there is mutual appreciation and respect; we connect with them at different points – interests, convictions, humour, background, shared experiences, etc. Liking someone is something which flows naturally.

Love as an emotion involves the same points; it is a natural reaction. At the same time it also has another dimension. Love is a decision we make; it is more than just an emotion. I can’t decide to like someone, but I can decide to love them – as Jesus commanded us “love your enemies.” To love one’s enemy is a choice; it does not come naturally. How do we love those we do not naturally like?

• We seek to resolve outstanding issues; always keeping the door open to reconciliation.
• We pray that God would enable us to subdue feelings of resentment and bitterness.
• We pray for their wellbeing.
• We seek to do good to them.
• We remember that we also wrong others and they may justifiably not like us.
• We take Christ as our example – He loved us and laid down His life for us while we were His enemies and hated Him.

It is easy to like and it is easy to dislike; both come naturally. But to love the unlovely is to reflect the character of God and for this we need His grace day by day.