Those Whom I Just Don’t Like
Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 1 John 2:9-10
I have a confession. I don’t love everyone I meet. I’ve got strong opinions and character traits and when I meet those who clash with my personality and my ideals, I find myself annoyed. I’m sure this is normal, but what comes natural to me isn’t necessarily what’s right or healthy for me. I’ve got plenty of natural tendencies that have caused me tremendous misery over the years. Still, I don’t think I’m ever going to get to the place where I inherently like everyone I meet. Frankly some people are just always going to be aggravating to me – just as I probably am to them.
In today’s passage though, John said that I must love those around me. If I claim to walk in the light – if I claim to be a Christian – I must love those whom God has put in my life. If I don’t love them, then I’m fooling myself regarding my faith and I’m actually walking in darkness.
I don’t hate anyone though. Often, I’m able to comfort myself with this justification – I don’t really act hatefully those whom I don’t like. I simply avoid them. John’s command though, isn’t that I don’t hate people. It’s that I love them. Love is a lot harder than apathy. When asked what it meant to love one’s neighbor (Luke 10:29-37), Jesus described a man stopping to help a complete stranger who’d been robbed, beaten, and left for dead. The two men in the story didn’t share ideals, faith, or politics. In fact, the story states they came from very different backgrounds. Jesus said though, that as his followers, we don’t get to pick whom we love. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them (Luke 6:32). Rather, as Christians, we must love even those we consider our enemies (Luke 6:27-28).
My problem is that I see love as an emotion that leads to action. If I like you, then I’ll be nice to you. If I just don’t feel as if I like someone, then I may not actively hate them. I’m simply indifferent to them. Jesus though, said that even if I don’t like someone, I must act in a loving manner towards them, regardless of my feelings. This seems paradoxical, but that’s the Christian life – abandoning what comes natural to me so that I may do what’s right. In doing so – in loving my neighbor – I choose to walk in the light.