Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can love someone, but you don’t have to like them?”
I was thinking about this the other day while attending a college ministry gathering just the other day. We had broken up into groups of four or five, with people that I have only known for just a few short weeks. A couple I had literally met that night. While discussing the understanding of what it truly means to love someone the way Jesus loves them, this phrase was tossed into the mix of our discussion. I then asked our group a question to go with the phrase. Is it okay as Christians to have this mindset whenever it truly comes to loving other people?
The reason why I asked that question is that I had that mentality whenever it came to loving the people around me. Whether they had a different background, perhaps different interests. Maybe they were just flat-out annoying. The last one is one of the main barriers I have that keeps me from loving people. Everyone has that friend in their circle that absolutely gets on their last nerve. Sometimes this person can walk into the room, without saying or doing anything, and you have already had enough. Most of you that are reading this already have a person, or maybe a couple people that popped up in your mind (if you didn’t, then more than likely you’re that person. Just kidding).
Everyone has a person like that in their life where it is way too difficult to love them because they break every last nerve you have. Or perhaps it’s not really that they annoy you. Maybe you are a college nerd that loves watching indie movies or playing classic video games, and this one person isn’t annoying but perhaps plays on the baseball team or is a Sorority girl. It’s just the personality and lifestyle difference between you that keep you from loving them more than you should.
I believe that if we were meant to love only those who look like us, act like us, talk like us, then we would all be the same and it would be ridiculously easy to love each other. It would also be a very dull place to live in. However, if we were all the same, then the example that Christ gave us would mean nothing to us. Jesus loved people that were vastly different from him.
The sinners that Pharisees gasped at the sight of Jesus sitting next to. The poor that Jesus went and invited to dine with. The woman that everyone was about to murder that Jesus came to save. The leper that people were so terrified to touch, yet Jesus had deep compassion for. The blind man that everyone thought had his sin or his parents’ sin caused his blindness that Jesus gave sight to.
There are countless people in the Bible that Jesus went to love directly. Yet, if the people that Jesus loved on were around in our world today, would we love them as he did? The woman? The leper? The blind man? Would they receive the same love that Christ gave them?
Guess what, those people ARE around us each and every day. His love was not to bring people together in groups that they’ll feel comfortable in or find similar interests in. This isn’t a club, but his body. We are a body of different people with different backgrounds, different stories, different hurts. We need to be different. And we need to love each other despite those differences. But not by the world’s standard of love. The world loves just so there is no more war and dispute and everyone is at peace together. This leaves everyone thinking that love is meant to bring peace to people so they can live the lives they want to live.
As Christians, we love them to the cross! Paul says in Ephesians 2 that “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility” (14-16).
We love other people to unite them with Christ at the cross. No more division between churches, for the church is not meant to be your Sunday morning personal interest club. It’s not meant to accommodate your desires to find relationships and a cool Sunday morning concert. The church is intended to bring those who have found themselves at the feet of Jesus. That is it!
Therefore, when we love other people, let us not hold back on our love. One of the guys in that group said, “If we are to love them but not like them, then that’s just the bare minimum.” Christians, we should not love at the bare minimum.
The cross was not the bare minimum. That is our perfect image of love. So, let’s take others to it. Not just our friends or our cool cousin, but everyone! Our neighbors, our classmates, our coworkers. Everyone that is different from you, they need the cross just as badly as you do. Don’t let your love be conserved for those you think that deserve it or to those that you think will love you back. You didn’t deserve any love from Christ, nor did he expect you to love him in return. He came to love you, not at the bare minimum, but with every ounce of obedience to the Father. And we should love others with every ounce we have, too.