What’s the difference between “liking” people and “loving” people? To “like” someone is “to find them agreeable, pleasant or enjoyable.” Liking implies positive emotions — good feelings and good “chemistry” between two parties. It includes a sense of pleasure when you’re with a person or when you’re thinking about them.
Liking is based on things such as mutual interests, compatibility of temperament and personalities, camaraderie or similar life experiences. Liking someone is emotionally, psychologically and intellectually fun and fulfilling. It’s the foundation of great friendships.
It’s interesting that the Bible never commands us to like everybody. It never mentions liking as a necessity in ALL of our interactions and relationships with other people.
The absence of its mention doesn’t imply that it’s not a good or desirable thing in relationships. Liking doesn’t have to be encouraged because it naturally occurs, without any effort on our part, in our interactions and connections with some folks. It’s something that happens “organically.” We just “like” some people, because, to us, they’re “likable.”
We get into trouble when we confuse liking and loving. While the Bible never commands us to “like everyone,” it does command us to “love everyone.”
While “liking” happens naturally in some relationships, “loving” people as God defines it, is not natural. It’s not something we’re inclined to do. While liking someone may eventually lead to loving someone, from God’s perspective, liking is not the antecedent — the prerequisite — to loving. In fact, God commands us to love people we may not like at all. From God’s perspective, loving and liking are two separate things. They aren’t necessarily mutually inclusive.
The Bible describes real love as a mindset and set of actions we choose, irregardless of, and sometimes in defiance of, our feelings toward someone. No “warm and fuzzy” emotions are necessary to fulfill the command to love.
Love, from a biblical frame of reference, thinks and acts certain ways toward people with or without positive emotions. For example, one characteristic of biblical love is kindness. We can choose to think kind thoughts and do kind things for people no matter what we feel about them.
Thinking and acting in loving ways toward others often requires us to ignore and press past any negative feelings we have toward them. This isn’t easy, and it’s not fun or personally fulfilling (at least when we first start practicing it). It requires commitment to God’s way of living, trusting that His way is the right way.
Why is it important for us to understand the difference between “liking” and “loving?” Because it takes our emotions out of the equation. It makes love something that is accessible and possible (through God’s grace and power) for us. We can actually love someone (through God’s grace and power) that we really don’t like at all. When we think about them and act toward them the way God commands us to, we’re choosing to love them. We’re obeying the law of love.
Here’s how the Bible describes love:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self- seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. — 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)
Notice how other’s-centered the God-kind of love is. It calls us to relinquish concerns about ourselves, our needs, our satisfaction and our pleasure. Loving is about treating others the right way irregardless of, and sometimes in spite of, the kind of treatment we receive from them. It’s all about attending to another person God’s way, with no preoccupation about ourselves.
But here’s the secret blessing that comes when we choose to love God’s way. It paves the path for incredibly positive feelings inside us. Right thoughts and actions always lead to right feelings. Loving thoughts and actions eventually produce great feelings. When we obey God’s law of love we open ourselves to God, for He is love!