I Don’t Like You

An Essay requested by Dennis Lewelllyn Sr., USMC ret.   

   “But that is okay, I love you in the Lord.”  How many times has that lie been told in the churches of America?  It is our, politically correct, religious solution for believing Jesus when he said, “But, I tell you: Love your enemies.”(Matthew 5:44). The world is full of people of different races, educational levels, physically-challenged people that don’t function like I do, and are of totally different religious, political, social attitudes than I have.  In many ways, they are in reality, my enemies.  There are many immoral people, evil conniving, and despicable people that turn my stomach; they are my enemies. There are people on the street that deal in drugs, promote alcoholism, rape little girls, and steal little boys.  They are my enemies.  According to Jesus and the church, “I have to love them, but I sure don’t have to like them or the things they do;”  after all they are my enemies.

   Now, I am going to agree with the latter third of that sentence, “Or like the things they do.”  We will deal with that later.  I believe that that first two-thirds of that sentence is the greatest barrier to evangelism that has ever existed in the church.  I cannot remember the first time I heard that statement at church, “You have to love ‘em, but you don’t have to like them.”

    I just checked the world clock at 9:30 AM this Monday morning of the 8th of December, and there were 6,711,501,386 people in the world.  I could stand up before God and claim that I love all of them, and He might ask me to name them; well, duh.  Of course I can’t, I at times have a hard time naming all the members of my family; in fact I have to go to my handy, reference book that I published last Christmas to get all their names.  So what on earth was Jesus talking about when he said that we were to love all people including our enemies? 

   I want to go to the last night that Jesus was visiting with his friends and family in the upper room.  In that upper room conversation, Jesus changed the whole idea of loving people.  Earlier the lawyer had answered Jesus about the greatest commandment in Luke 10:27, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and all your strength and with all your mind,’ and, He said, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  Jesus answered, “’You have said correctly.’  ‘Do this and you will live.’”  This has been quoted around the world.  The truth of the matter, many folks quoted this, and explained,  “I don’t really like myself, so why should I like others?”  Jesus settled that on the night he was betrayed.  John 14:12-14, “My command  (Jesus is talking) is this: ‘Love each other as I have loved you. No greater love has any one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’  ‘You are my friends if you do what I command.’”

   Now that changes everything.  Jesus and God do know all 6.7 plus billion people by name, they knitted them together in their mother’s womb, and knew what they were called to do in life before they were born, and have a honey-do jar sitting on His work bench that had the jobs they were created to do before they were born. Check Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1, and Ephesians 2 if you doubt any of that.  Christ died at the cross for every person’s sins since Adam and Eve; He bore the sins of the world, and he laid down his human life from that

Friday afternoon at 3 PM till Sunday Morning at dawn when the stone was rolled away for all mankind.  Now, I am going to be the first to raise my hand and admit that I am  not in the league with Jesus and God on this subject, but he expects me to be, or at least to work at being in his league for the rest of my life. 

   That gift at the cross would be universal salvation, everyone going to heaven to live with God in that 1,400 mile cubed city described at the end of Revelations, except for the final clause quoted from John 14, “You are my friends if you do what I command.”  We are saved by grace (Ephesians 2) through faith, and that faith is our total response to Jesus as Savior. It sure includes our obedience in coming to faith, that includes repentance, and baptism.  So, how do we sort all of this out in liking and loving? 

   It might serve us well to look at the current Barna survey of 16 to 29 year olds. In his book about Hating Christians, Barna reports that youth between 16 and 29, both born again Christians, youth that spasmodically attend church, and kids totally outside of the church, 90% of them have a negative view of Christians.  They perceive them (and to most people, perception is reality) as being hypocritical, narrow minded, unloving, and  angry toward people.  Across the board, Mainline Christians as well as Evangelical (Evangelical the most) reject being kind, loving, and accepting of people because they fall into the class that all call enemies; now again, if they are well taught in their church years, they will claim to “love” them.  But that sham is so easy to see through, especially by the youth 16-29 realize it is a lie.  So in reality, the percentages come down as the people you query get older but never drops below 65%.  In reality, everyone in the world around us, by a large percentage, realized that saying we love someone and that we don’t like them is hypocritical. 

   Another biblical hook to hang this discussion on is the great commission and portions of the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew 5:43-48 tells us to not only love our enemies, we are to pray for them, and to pray for those that persecute us, that “You may be sons of your Father in Heaven.”  Jesus goes on, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you receive?  Are  not even the tax-collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect (mature), therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (mature).” 

    We are commissioned to disciple every nation, tribe, race, clan of the world (Matthew 28).  Now, let’s be honest; those nations that we are to disciple will be filled with murderers, rapists, homosexuals, heterosexual promiscuous, robbers, divorced, shacked up, child molesters, and the like.  The only fishing hole for hooking great saints for the Christian Church is the cesspool of sin.  These “fish” all come out of the pond yucky, stinking, and repulsively filthy.  That is our only assignment as members of the Christian Church.  Once we catch them we Baptize them in the name of the Holy Trinity, and then  teach them ALL THINGS THAT JESUS HAS TAUGHT US.  Note the order here; we make friends with them and make disciples of them, then we clean them up in the blood of Christ, by the Romans 6 method, and then we set them down to be taught all about moral living, the rules of the church as given by Jesus Christ, and we make them a partner in our business of redeeming the world (after all, by this time they have already been adopted into the family by God {Ephesians}.   Now understand, this is our marching orders as the church. Nowhere are we told to build buildings, temples, or other things, nowhere are we told to create NGOs; however, these things as tools to do the great commission is quite alright and just as biblical as the Synagogues of Jesus and Paul’s time. (Another study if you are interested.)

   Now let’s get practical. If we as the church spend our times boycotting people we don’t like, marching with signs saying “God hates (put in the sin of choice), and preaching the wrath of God on sinners, it is hard to walk into a saloon as the designated driver, put your arm around a drunk and invite him to become a disciplined learner, and follower of Jesus Christ. Most likely, he will look at you and say, “I already have enough trouble; why would I want to add to my troubles by getting involved with these narrow-minded Christians that don’t like me?”  Perhaps your college-aged kid brings his roommate home for a weekend, and in conversation you find that they are homosexual, and for an hour you have been ragging homosexuals and how they are all going to burn in Hell; what is your chance to make a disciple of them, being their friend, and rescuing your child from a perceived harms way?  Remember, 16 to 29-year-olds will not necessarily go along with your values at college just because you say so. Oh yes, cut off their money, their car, or whatever; that has sure worked well over the past 40 years.

   I can hear what some of you are thinking now, “Herb is so very soft on sin, he is denying the faith.”  Wait a minute, you are getting the  cart before the horse. Let’s keep in order our commission. First, we make friends of them, then we make disciples of them.  You can’t fill the bottle if you put the cork in first.  Don’t block your invitation to become a disciple by condemning the person you are seeking to win before you have had a chance to know them, walk in their shoes for a mile, and begin to understand where they are coming from.  This is where loving people begin with getting to know them.   

    God is going to hold me accountable for knowing, liking, and loving those with whom I come in contact in person, by mail,  by internet, by my relationship with other people. Every day, my island of knowledge about others should be enlarging, every day I should be getting to know someone, or many someones better.  As I get to know someone, I will understand their problems, life circumstances better, and as I interact with them, I will learn to like them so much that it will be natural as a Christian to love them as Jesus loved them at the cross.  It does not happen over night. I believe we can rate our spiritual life, by how many people we know, but don’t like.

     Speaking of Christians Paul writes, “To prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up and until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and  become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:12, 13).  Let me give you an example.  Melba was in the hospital, she was drifting in and out of reality.  She had been through a half-dozen operations already, and she had fought each one of them.  I had signed permission not only about the leg  wounds but for internal operation that was necessary due to excessive vaginal bleeding.  She was semi-conscience and was not happy about going back into the operating room.  The anesthesiologist came in and in his normal way began his questioning Melba. She began to tell him that she did not want to wake up on the table; she became apprehensive and argumentative.  He assured her that he would be very careful.  

   Melba drifted off, and I noticed that he was over 6 feet tall, had a clear southern South American, Germanic-Spanish accent.  I was sure he was from Buenos Aires or Santiago, so I bet on Buenos Aires and was right. He was shocked, and we visited about South and Central America, our hospital in Guatemala, about Melba’s medical problem and in five minutes we were friends.  Melba woke back up, and he took her hand and squeezed it, and bent close over her and spoke softly to her, “It is going to be okay, Miss Melba, We are friends, and I will take so very good care of you.”  It was by far the best of all her operations. It takes a few minutes to get to know someone,  become friendly, and in a Christian way, fall in love with them. 

    I can philosophically or conceptionally love 6.7 billion people, but I can’t love them like Jesus does until I get to know them and become friends with them. Then I can love them.  At the same time, I will have learned to like them as well.  Now, if I like them, if I love them, I am going to be concerned about them, and I am going to be wanting them to find a relationship with Jesus Christ. I will want them to be a disciple.  Now that we are friends and we care about each other, I have earned the right to share my heart with them about Jesus and that I want them to be a friend of Jesus as well. I want to lead them to a better lifestyle and relation to the world.  

   This is where our Agape Christian vision comes in play, “We accept people as they are, and will gently lead them to where Jesus wants them to be.”  Now we are ready to get them in the baptistery to wash away their sins, give them a new life (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, and Romans 6).  Once that has been accomplished, we are ready to begin the life-long seminar of “All That Jesus Has Taught.”   Now that they have made a commitment to Jesus Christ, and we are trusted friends, we can talk about lifestyle, sexual preferences, moral habits, character flaws, and lifestyle corrections. And a lifetime of learning to walk close to Jesus Christ as a child of God; we can address sin.  In this process, we can agree and we can disagree. We can bring evidence and reason to bear on the situation, and even if we disagree, we have a good enough friendship to disagree agreeably, and then to pray and consider, and perhaps we both will learn something. 

   This is why I said that loving someone but not liking them was the greatest roadblock to Christian Evangelism over the past 20 centuries.  If you don’t like each other, the first time you disagree, it is splitsville. Each of you is on your own way in different directions.  If you have become friends first, then you have grounds for the meeting of the minds.  This is where you take disciples and correct the ways in their life that you don’t like, and the ways that are at odds with the word of God.  The church needs to learn the order in which you reach out to challenge and correct problems and people.  We also must make sure that what we don’t like in someone is backed up by a “thus sayeth the Lord.”  Not just a passing glance at Galatians 5:21, “… AND THE LIKE.”  Let’s not read between the lines and interpret in our pet prejudices.  There is room in the Christian faith for honest disagreement over what we think is most profitable and what is unprofitable.  Each culture has traditions and customs that are very much its own, but are not necessarily a scriptural mandate in how to dress, or what we should eat or drink. 

   It is also very possible in Christ to determine to love a class of people, and to open your heart to deal with them as a special class of folks that you are dedicated to reaching.  This love is not for an individual but for a class; it then opens the door much more rapidly to loving each individual in that class, and liking them as well. 

   This is a very necessary trait for a missionary couple; they both must sign on as having a special love for the people they are striving to reach.   By removing cultural prejudice from your mind, it is easier to love and to like your enemies.  After all, these are the ones that you came to reach. 

   I read it in the news magazines several years ago, we heard it once again in the preaching of  Dr. Ajai Lall this last Sunday  night as we watched the DVD of his sermon at the World Convention last July.  He reminded us of  missionary Stern, and his two sons from Australia, that was in the State of Orisses ministering to lepers and untouchable Delots, and a group of radical Hindus surrounded their Jeep Wagoner, and rather than driving over any of them, Brother Stern pulled over and stopped.  The radicals torched their vehicle, not allowing the father and two young sons to escape, and they were burned to death.  At the funeral that was attended by a great many of the news media, a major national reporter asked Sister Stern her feelings about the radicals that torched her family.  Both Sister Stern and her teen daughter looked into the TV camera and said, “We have forgiven those men that caused this fire that burned our men to death.  I am praying for them and their families.  I do not wish them any harm, I pray that they will come to know our Lord Jesus Christ, and will have the peace and quiet spirit that  God has given us.” 

   The TV anchor, one of the most famous in India, jumped in front of the camera and told a nation listening to the comments, “If that is Christianity, then I want to be a part of it.” 

   If we philosophically love a people in the abstract, when a disaster hits, and we are faced with death of a loved one or a co-worker; our anger, our self-righteousness, our true hatred comes out, and our language betrays our Christian false front.  The truth will out. 

   In disaster, your real feelings come out, and  you no longer can hide how you really feel behind a memorized quote about loving people but not liking them.  The real feeling will burst forth, and your true hatred and anger will spill all over the place.  The real you will be showing.

   When you take time to get to know, make friends with, and truly love someone that turns against you, you are hurt deeply; your love has been rejected, and you look deeply into your soul to find what you could have done better.   When you really like someone, you will seek to excuse if possible.