I had a conversation recently that made me think about two words, love and like. Someone I know is having a difficult time loving a person that has appeared in their life. I say they are having a difficult time loving this person, because I'm pretty sure they certainly don't like the person. To hear my friend talk, it sounds as though their dislike of this person is bleeding into a spirit of not loving this person. It got me thinking:
Should our like for someone ever determine our love for them?
In the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke specifically), Jesus is asked what he considers the greatest commandment.
Ever the rebel, he responds with two. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength... and the other one is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself." Everything, he says, rests upon these two commands. And it's not like he says, "Love the Lord your God... in the safest, most comfortable, least sacrificial ways possible" or "Love your neighbor as yourself... unless that guy's a total jerk or weird or annoying, then forget it, treat him however you want."
Loving God requires we get over ourselves.
Loving our neighbors requires we get past the "like" factor.
Jesus says these two commands--notice they are not suggestions--are closely related. Why would loving God have anything to do with loving my jerky, weird, annoying neighbors? Well, it has something to with a little thing called imago dei (pronounced ee-MAH-go day). It's Latin for "the image of God," and it is something Christians believe every person is born with. This doesn't necessarily mean we physically resemble God (we all look pretty different after all), rather it speaks to something deep within us, a thread that runs from God through all of humanity.
This thread is a uniting force that connects you and me and everyone who has ever walked this earth. It's something built into the very fiber of our being that immediately makes us recognizable as belonging to God. It's why the scriptures refer to God as Father and Mother. Guess what that makes us?
Now I know that word is not a positive one to everyone. I know that families can be ugly, messed up, abusive, broken, and the last thing in the world you may want. You may think family is the last place to find Love. But we're not talking about a family as we know it. We're talking about God's family.
And like it or not, you are a beloved child of God.
And like it or not, that makes us family. In God's family, that means we love each other, wholly, fully, and unconditionally.
Whether we like it or not.
So find the "neighbor" in your life, the one who you really, really don't like. Find it in your heart to love them anyways. Love them in a way that goes beyond safe or comfortable and instead becomes sacrificial. Make it mean something. When you feel it in your heart, mind, soul, and strength, you're probably doing it right.