So I’m sure you’ve heard the expression,
I know I have to love (fill in the blank) but I sure don’t have to like him!
I’ve said it before. But I’m thinking twice about it now.
I was laughing with a friend the other day about the fact that I have no problem loving my husband but some days I have to work at liking him.
We laughed pretty hard because we both know how true this is with relationships. But then I began to wrestle with it. Is it really possible to love someone and not like them? Does love work that way?
I thought about this dilemma long after my conversation was over with my friend. I began to feel uncomfortable with the idea that loving and not-liking someone is compatable. Maybe liking someone is a component of loving and when we dislike we dis-love?
Jesus was traveling through a town called Jericho. At this point Jesus was kind of a rock star. Naturally a crowd would gather around Him. There was a man named Zaccheus who was curious about Jesus. He too wanted to get a look at him. But being a short man he couldn’t see over the crowd so he climbed up in a tree to be able to catch a glimpse. But being height challenged wasn’t his only problem.
Nobody liked him.
He was dispised by people in his community. And with good reason. He was a jerk. (You can read the story here, Luke 19:1-10) Jesus did something remarkable and scandalous. He liked him. While in a crowd of haters, Jesus liked. In front of a big crowd, He told Zaccheus that He would be coming over to his house to hang out. Now in those days this was really daring. To talk to, let alone have a meal with, someone that the community deemed unworthy was like sleeping with the enemy. You just didn’t cross those lines. Your own reputation was then damaged if you did.
But maybe that’s the problem with dis-liking, the focus is on me. When I don’t like someone it’s because they offend me on some level. They irritate me or make me loose my patience, they are slow or irresponsible, selfish or mean, they are two faced or gossips, they can’t be trusted or arrogant, maybe they just rub me the wrong way. Trying to live in a world with other human beings is work. It’s easier to dislike someone that it is to work at liking them. I’m really more comfortable that way. So yea, it’s all about me.
The people in Jericho had good cause to dislike Zaccheus. He really wasn’t a good guy.
But Jesus shows us a side of love that has given me food for thought. He separates the person from the behavior. With His reputation on the line He doesn’t give into the pressure to please the crowd around Him. Jesus likes Zaccheus certainly not because Zaccheus was likable, but because He was able to see past Zaccheus actions and into his humanity. Jesus loves all men and women, no matter what.
Love makes room for like.
So what is going on in me when I struggle to “like”? People behave in ways where it makes it really hard to like them. It’s just crazy to think that we won’t be affected by someone when their actions offend and disrupt our lives. To dislike is NOT a sin but rather a symptom that there is still work to be done in me.
Perhaps I need more of the grace, patience, forgiveness, understanding, correction, affirmation, opportunity and kindness of God so that I am able to pour it out when someone is acting in an “unlikable” way?
- Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to dislike someone?
- Wouldn’t it be nice to not get so frustrated or annoyed by others who we just don’t like?
- Wouldn’t it be nice to see someones humanity and not only see the offense?
- Wouldn’t it be nice to be a little more like Jesus?
So when I’m symptomatic with dislike it’s because I need a little more of Jesus. And although it’s natural say I love and not like someone at the same time, I think Jesus is asking me to help write a greater story with my life. To call people out of trees and work at liking more.