Loving People When You Don’t Really Like Them
A loved one who shall remain nameless once told me, jaw flexing, smile forced, “Angela, I love you, but I don’t like you very much right now.”
Wow! Talk about shocked! Young and full of myself, I just didn’t get it. First, I thought like came before love. Second, I thought I was pretty darn likable. Hah!
Now that I’m older, though, and have dealt with a lot of human beings just like me, I get it.
The truth is none of us are likable all the time, and like often comes after love if like ever comes at all. Whether it does or doesn’t, though, we Christians are commanded to love (John 13:4, Matt 5:43).
Well, it’s not always easy, especially when you’re hurt or disappointed, you don’t see a deserving bone in the recipient’s body, and/or the last face you want to see and the last voice you want to hear is theirs, but it is pretty simple.
When serious dislike sets in, shove fickle emotion aside and do the following:
Focus on the eternal
Right now is never just about right now. It’s about forever and where each of us will be spending it.
If the person you’re dealing with doesn’t know Jesus, they need to, or they’ll spend eternity separated from God in hell (2 Thess. 1:8-10). To fully understand Who He is and comprehend what He’s done for them so they can put their faith in Him for salvation from the consequences of sin, they need to experience Him in their interaction with you and anyone else who claims Jesus as their Savior.
That means grace; you have to treat them better than they deserve to be treated. That means mercy; you have to show patient restraint, even when justice must be carried out. The best way to do that? Forgive. Whether or not your emotions are ready to do so, believe and act as if they don’t owe you anything personally—nothing, not even an apology. Good feelings may or may not follow, so your resolve must be firm.
If the person you’re dealing with does know Jesus, they may need to experience the conviction, or convincing, of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8) so they can repent of their sin, reestablish intimate fellowship with the Father (Psalm 66:18-19), and get back to the business of serving Him. They won’t, though, if your voice is louder than His.
Don’t plant yourself between a brother or sister and God. Get out of the way by extending at least as much grace, mercy and forgiveness you would extend to someone outside His family. Who knows? It might be your example the Holy Spirit uses to accomplish the very thing you wish He would.
Adopt an attitude of worship
When you can’t do it for them, do it for God. Acknowledge His worth and position by doing the thing He’s called you to do so others will do the same, even when—especially when—it requires humility and sacrifice (Col 3:17, Matt 5:16). Compelled by His extravagant love, love Him back.
Choose your words carefully
“Where words are many, sin is not absent” (Prov. 10:19), but silence can also wound. There’s no harm in speaking the Truth. As a matter of fact, the Bible tells us to (Eph. 4:25), but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Like the Bible says, season your words with salt (Col. 4:6). Use them to preserve and heal, and don’t speak until you can. Remember, the goal is repentance and restoration, not discouragement and destruction (2 Cor. 7:10).
Nothing syncs a person’s heart up with God’s like prayer. Talk to Him. Listen to Him, and start with you. Confess any thoughts, actions, attitudes or motives that don’t match His, and commit to love. You don’t need to ask for joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness or self-control. If you know Jesus, you have those through the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). You just need to use them. Promise God you’ll do it and follow through. Then, selfish motives aside, pray for the redemption or restoration of the person you don’t particularly like. Looking for God’s hand at work in response to your prayers will do much for your attitude toward them. It may even transform you from critic to cheerleader.
Let God meet your needs
If we’re honest with ourselves, most of the frustration we experience with others has to do with unmet expectations of a personal nature. It’s not righteous anger we feel; it’s a pity party, one we could skip out on if we would only learn to lean on faithful, unchanging God. When you depend on others to provide things only He can, things like peace, joy, contentment, healing, happiness, etc., you set yourself up for disappointment and give the Enemy a foothold in your relationships and in your heart. Don’t do that.
Bottom line, like is a fickle emotion, here one second, gone the next, and you don’t need it to do what God has called you to do. All you need is a perfect example to follow, and, thank God, in Jesus, you have One!