AS A CHRISTIAN, DO I HAVE TO LIKE EVERYONE?
As a Christian, I know that I have to love everyone. But do I have to like them all? And what’s the difference, anyway? Galatians 5:22-23 mentions the attributes of true Christians. These characteristics are called “the fruit of the Spirit,” and love is the first fruit mentioned. Certain fruits of the Spirit – long-suffering (i.e., patience), kindness, goodness, and gentleness – also represent love.
Since the ‘romantic movement’ onwards, we have all continued to establish a very compliant, weak, excessively emotional, and ‘soppy’ view of ‘love’ instead of the biblical model.
Liberalism also promoted ‘love’ as being somewhat shallow and easy to give people what they want; however, liberals have never been interested in good, solid character traits. In total contrast, God’s love contains the concepts of fairness and judgment, which cannot be separated from the principle of good, solid character. It is nothing like the liberal or romantic definition of ‘love.’ God’s love is far less emotional, much more rational, and has a sense of responsibility. It also lasts because it isn’t subject to the heights and dips of transient human emotion, even though emotion plays a part. It could be said that the love of God has a long-term perspective to which it remains committed; it concerns an unselfish outgoing concern and commitment to those created in the very image of God. But it’s nothing to do with the ‘like’ of every person we encounter, nor is it possible. There are many facets to the nature of God’s love.
For example, if a woman claims to ‘love’ her husband, but frequently rejects his sexual advances (a crucial part of marital love, in God’s view), her love may be more of a habit and feeling than the ‘love’ that should be present. God wants Christian husbands and wives to show sincere devotion to each other. Modern culture suggests that you and I will do ‘what is best for us,’ that is, as long as we feel ‘fulfilled’ personally, no more questions are needed to be raised.
It should also be clear how the modern definition of ‘lust’ – under the influence of poets and the ‘romantic movement’ and the influence of populism – has evolved and is significantly different from the biblical understanding. The modern idea of love is more immediate and selfish. This has also influenced a lot Christians; many Christians now feel that they must go around loving everybody in a very non-judgmental, superficial and calming way, but this is not Christian love, although we should still be prepared to feel in the best of people and to try to be compassionate and polite. Are Christians supposed to ‘like’ everybody, then?
Loving everybody may not happen because sometimes we are different from others, so it’s hard to communicate with them. If we’re honest, we’re not going to choose every person we meet as friends. There are also issues with some people and among Christians.
Sometimes the question means: do I have to treat everyone like a best friend of mine?
Interestingly, when Jesus was asked, ‘What is the greatest commandment? (Luke 10) he replied, quoting from the Old Testament, ‘Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.’
Okay, that may sound like having a lot of best friends. It seems to be quite exhausting.
I guess that’s what the people around him said, as they were very keen to clear up exactly what he said. The very next question was, “Who is my neighbor?” And he brought out the very famous Good Samaritan story.
But think back to the story, though. The Samaritan picked up the man and offered his aid, but he left until he knew the man was in good hands. Loving one’s neighbor did not involve forcing one’s way into another man’s life, and being one of his best friends.
Loving your neighbor doesn’t necessarily mean being personally close to everyone you’ve come across. But it does mean treating everyone with dignity, kindness, and compassion that is acceptable to the various kinds of relationships that you find yourself in.
You may not like someone, but that’s no reason to be cruel or rude, neglect them when you can help them or avoid them, punish them, or gossip about them. And if you’re able to help the person you don’t like, loving your neighbor requires you to do just that! That might mean standing up for them against teasing or being polite when your peers are rude or giving someone a chance.
ARE CHRISTIANS SUPPOSED TO LOVE PEOPLE IN ADDITION TO THEIR FRIENDS AND FAMILY?
Let’s look at what Jesus Christ said about loving others.
Matthew 22:37-40 records the response of Jesus Christ to the question, “What is the great commandment in the law?” In doing so, Jesus paraphrases the passages of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 in the Old Testament as follows:
“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Both the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Jesus’ answer leaves no doubt that he sees love for others as secondly important after love toward God.
Apostle Paul also emphasized the importance of devotion. 1 Corinthians 13:1-6, 13 says,
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing. Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity vaunts not itself, is not puffed up, does not behave unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, think no evil. Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;”
“And now abides faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”
DO CHRISTIANS HAVE TO BE NICE TO EVERYONE?
It sounds impossible to be nice to everyone every second of the day. We’re human, and there’s no “nice” switch to keep us in a good mood. This is the truth. However, as Christians, as we speak to other people or even walk down the street and encounter strangers, there is a conviction that we ought always to be polite to anyone we come in contact with. That’s too much strain. And if you’re not nice, other people will criticize and say that you’re a hypocrite. If you wondered if Christians should always be nice to everyone, let’s discuss that in more detail.
NICE VS. KIND
Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
There’s a difference between being nice and being kind. When you’re nice, it just means that you’re always smiling and always pleasant to several people. On the other hand, being kind is much more than a smiling face; it comes from the heart.
There is no harm, of course, in trying to be polite to others. It’s not going to be hard to put a smile on your face while waiting for something in line. And what you don’t know is that your smile is helping people get through a tough day. But if you are not in the mood to do so, don’t push yourself to do so. You don’t have to feel sad about it. The most important thing is that you do your hardest to be as kind as possible to others.
LOVE YOUR NEIGHBORS
One of the Ten Commandments was that you love your neighbor as you love yourself. It sounds a bit boring. It also seemed like you’ve got to be the best friends with whomever you met. That’s not the case at all.
God doesn’t want you to invite every friend you’ve got over for a good meal. Yet what this “love” means is that you treat everyone with reverence and kindness. The idea of being kind also comes into the picture here, because, without genuine kindness, you won’t be generous as well.
If you don’t like someone or you’re annoyed by someone, you don’t have to push yourself to be his/her friend. Nevertheless, the best thing to do is avoid complaining about a person, ignoring them, conspiring against them, speaking ill of them, or instilling hatred in others’ hearts concerning them. You should try to understand this person better and still be respectful and polite when he/she talks to you – this is already known to be love.
SHOULD CHRISTIANS LOVE EVEN THEIR ENEMIES?
It is evident from the prior discussion that our agape love will include strangers. But what about those people we don’t like, particularly those who have seriously offended us? It is indeed challenging to have agape love for such men. However, having agape love for someone doesn’t allow us to feel positive about that person. Agape love demands an act of our will. The New Testament does not say that we need to like a person, but it does say that we should love them. Find the following two passages in the Scriptures:
In Matthew 5:43-44, which records a part of the so-called “Sermon on the Mount” of Jesus Christ, he says,
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
Then in Luke 6:26-28, 32, Jesus states,
“Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you for so did their fathers to the false prophets. But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies. Do good to them which hate you. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”
“For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? For sinners also love those that love them.”
God never told His people to hate their enemies at any time. Jesus is the never-changing God of love. And He cannot hate anybody, nor can He order anyone else to do so.
Why then did Jesus suggest that the old testaments told us to hate our enemy? He didn’t, and for a perfect reason. No such verse can be found anywhere in the old testaments. Jesus is not quoting the old testaments here, but the pharisee misinterpreted the old testaments. Notice, Jesus doesn’t say “it’s written,” as he often did when he quoted the old testaments. Instead, he said, “You’ve heard,” meaning the Jewish “tradition.” The fact is that the God of love commanded love in both the old testaments and the new testaments, and never at any time ordered us to hate others.
So the Bible clarifies that we should love even those we regard as our enemies and that our love should be genuine, not superficial. But how can we love people we don’t like, particularly our enemies?
We cannot love our power. Some of us fail to love certain other people. They love only those who are easy to love. In our innate ability, we have neither the strength nor the inspiration to love them.
If the Spirit guides us, we will enjoy God’s love [i.e., agape love].
You’re not expected to be perfect as a Christian. As we all know, it’s a challenge every day to be a Christian worthy of being called God’s child. However, you still have the right to feel disappointed or angry: This doesn’t make you less Christian if you have negative emotions. You don’t have to be nice to everyone and like them. The important thing you need to concentrate on is how to respond when something negative happens or how to handle others with compassion and kindness. Be as gentle as possible; be patient, be kind and sweet, practice self-control, and give peace as these are the fruits of the Spirit.
And the answer is: no, you don’t have to ‘like’ everyone and treat them as your best friend. Yet you’ve got to respect them. And there’s a difference.