A lot of believers struggle with the idea of loving everyone. The problem, of course, isn’t with family and friends, or with our nice neighbors and co-workers. We don’t have an issue with being good to the people who have been good to us or accepting the people who look and sound and act like we do. No, the problem is with those “other people.”
At the core of our struggle is a common sentiment: I just don’t like them.
Sometimes the lack of “like” is rooted in the personal prejudices that come from your conditioning—you were just taught to see certain people in a negative light. Sometimes, however, it’s rooted in a very real pain, the genuine hurt of abuse or embarrassment or betrayal that someone has inflicted on you by their words or actions. Naturally, the last thing you want to do is hold hands and skip through a meadow together!
But here’s the thing—God never asked you to like everyone! Once you embrace that truth, you can breathe a sigh of relief. You’ll be freed from a lot of guilt in your spiritual walk, that lingering shame that you’re not a good Christian because you have negative feelings about someone. You’ll realize that you can let yourself off the hook for something God never expected you to do in the first place.
What God does ask you to do is love everyone. This love—agape in the original language of scripture—is not a warm, fuzzy feeling you get when someone comes in the room. It’s not attraction, affection, or admiration. It’s not a sense of loyalty and good-will toward your friends.
This love is not an emotional reaction to another person’s pleasantness, beauty, or virtue. Rather, it is willful action that’s taken despite the other person’s utter lack of pleasantness, beauty, or virtue! In other words, agape is a conscious decision on the part of the lover to be good to the unlovable, even in the complete absence of any fond feelings whatsoever.
Love has absolutely nothing to do with like. In fact, love picks up where like leaves off.
Even though they’ve hurt you, you choose not to hurt them in return (and better yet, to help them when they need it!)…despite how you feel.
Even though they’ve wrongfully damaged your reputation, you choose to refuse to slander them back…despite how you feel.
Even though they’ve taken from you, you choose to give to them in their hour of need…despite how you feel.
Yes, you can still love people you don’t like. In fact, love isn’t really love UNTIL you dislike someone! Jesus said that even the worst of sinners are good to those who are good to them (Matthew 5:46–47). If that’s all you do, then you’re not doing anything.
Agape only becomes agape when your feelings for someone turn sour…when the flower of fondness is withered and gone…when you’ve been insulted or demeaned…when that person has become a royal pain in your backside. As long as there’s like, there’s no need for love, and God doesn’t get any glory.
Here’s some more help for those who are wrestling with this. Guess what? God doesn’t like you all the time! Throughout history, human beings have been supremely unlikable to God. He called Israel stiff-necked and rebellious, like a “backsliding heifer.” (His words, not mine!) Jesus likened some folks to a brood of snakes and to whitewashed graves full of dead men’s bones!
But as unlikable as we’ve been, God has always loved us anyway. He still sent the sunshine and the rain on the earth. He still consistently reached out with His word of encouragement and correction.
And He still sent His only begotten Son to die in our place.
Real, godly love—the love that the Father demands from His children—has nothing to do with how you feel, but everything to do with what you do. That’s how He loves, and He expects to see the family resemblance in you.
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