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Like to Love

Like many Christians, I find myself despairing over our social ills.  And then, by way of the occasional spirit-led reminder, I return to the most important point:  God seeks to love me, to love you.  And so, in losing sight of this point, I also lose sight of the cause and effect of not remembering it as a collective people.  (And the consequences are even greater for the individual soul.)  Perhaps what is the root of our greatest problems today, these social ills, is that we don’t remember often enough how much God loves us.  Or worse, we don’t know.  But even worse still is not that we may not remember or not know, it is the possibility that we may not accept it.  It is that we may replace it with something of lower value.  Knowingly or not, perhaps it is that many of us have chosen to be liked over being loved.  There is a difference between the two.  Put side by side, it is easy to see how much deeper and wider love is than merely being liked.

In common sense terms, like is sort of a compatibility thing.  People who like each other tend to share common interests and aspirations.  We often like people who exhibit personality traits that we consider admirable.  We try to emulate those who are successful, or outwardly refined in some manner.  What motivates us to like someone, what makes a person likeable in present-day culture, has many sources.  And they can be hard to identify.  Sometime we don’t even understand it ourselves; it is just a vague feeling we get inside.  This is especially so when we find ourselves liking people we don’t even know on a personal level.  That far off person we think is so wonderful may be a truly miserable person at home.  Or maybe we don’t even care.  We like certain celebrities, whether or not they have questionable character.  And how society defines character changes over time.  Even our individual perspectives change.  The kind of person we like at twenty-something is much different at fifty.  And so, whatever those qualities are today that we find endearing, or were yesterday, they are temporary in nature.

Having said all that, what I am really wanting to talk about today is not what attracts us to another person but, rather, what drives us above all else to be the object of that adoration…to be liked.  Of course, there is the perfectly natural elements of wanting to be liked, and surely a sign of healthy mind and body.  Human life was meant to be shared with others, and in order to do that, we need to be socially harmonious on some level.  So I am not talking about that kind of like; except to say that if we ever do find that we so offend others we have no friends at all, we should probably begin a sincere and dedicated journey of self-reflection.  (I’ve been there a few times myself.)  Truly, there is another kind of desire in regards to being liked that is something altogether unhealthy, artificial, and even limiting.  And to that degree — sinful.  I am talking about a desire to be liked that grows out of pride and self-centeredness.  And it is one that consumes our very essence.  I don’t mean to be harsh about this.  It’s not a fine line to which I’m referring, one that we can cross and are not able to distinguish one side from the other without a deep study into the humanities and philosophies.  This kind of need to be liked is defined by a shallowness where we make no room for meaningful contribution to our fellow man.  We care only about ourselves.  I’m talking about a desire that is so self-focused in its quest for popularity that one no longer understands, and consequently, recognizes what love is.

This search for and in the shallow kind of like leads to a dead-end.  Love, however, has no end.  Love is deciding, and acting upon that decision, to be for someone.  It is to be for many.  And in the long haul.  Love is giving and self-sacrificing.  Love is completely independent of whether or not we like a person.  To the contrary, evidence of loving another is when we continue to be for him when we don’t like him!

Perhaps the best definition of love is found in duration.  Love is an eternal commitment.  This is what Jesus offers all of us.  God’s love is permanent, in the truest sense of the word.  God’s love carries us from one life into the next.  We only need to choose it, choose it over the alternatives.  What sign do you have that God loves you?  Is it in the daily events?  I suppose sometimes it is, although His hand is most often invisible.  Is it in the big milestones?  I suppose sometimes it is there too.  But more than either of these, it is in Jesus, having entered into the human race to be with us.  To lower Himself to be one of us.  To suffer and die for our sins.  And then to see us to the other side.

Accepting God’s love gives us the capacity to genuinely love others.  The ability to love is a condition of the spiritual heart.  And as we embrace God’s love, our own nature may be so changed that others will seek to be around us more.  So choose God’s love, and the “being liked” part will naturally follow.

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”  John 6:35-40, NIV