Have you ever heard a Christian say this? I’ve not only heard it, but said it many times. Yesterday, talking about Barack Obama, a friend told me that they love Obama but don’t like him. (By the way, this was right before he called Obama a “self aggrandizing, arrogant socialist…who is a piss-poor leader.”)
Sometimes I wonder if we say “I love him, but I just don’t like him,” so that we can justify our sinful and selfish attitude or behavior toward an individual who is hard to love. We say we love them and that love is a matter of the will, not an emotion. That is, we argue that love is a choice, not a feeling, as my friend did.
But don’t feelings necessarily arise from the choices of our will? I think they do.
I don’t see a difference in the Scriptures between liking and loving. I think that we say things like this simply because we don’t want to do the hard, messy work of actually loving. Consider though how God has loved us — the untouchable, unlovable sinners that we are. He never said, “Well, I quite dislike this group since they are a stench to me, but I guess I’ll send my Son to show them how much I love them.” The call for us is to be like him: “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
In an article from 1970, John Piper talks about how it is impossible to have the will to love someone if we dislike them:
If we dislike another person it will be impossible to consistently will the loving thing for that person. Sometimes we will simply forget to restrain our feelings and other times when we think we have willed the loving thing, our dislike will have sneaked in through a patronizing tone of voice or a depreciating glance. We cannot love consistently if we do not like (emphasis added).
Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” and also, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt. 5:16; 44). He did not say, “Love your enemies, but feel free to not like them if want.” No one will glorify your Father in heaven for that.
What are your thoughts?