“I love you too, buddy.”
“Momma, know what else? I like you.”
My sweet boy tells me the same paired sentiments day after day, usually multiple times a day. One day, a friend overheard his loving thoughts.
“Why does he say the same thing twice?”
I smiled as I ruffled Nate’s dark hair. “He’s not. My little guy is pretty wise. He’s learned there’s a big difference between liking someone and loving them.”
It’s true, isn’t it? God told us to love everyone, but to be honest, there are some folks I love that I don’t always like. As Mark Lowry said, “I’ll cry at their funeral, but I don’t want to go on vacation with them!”
I think that’s the hardest thing about agape love. Agape love has very little to do with how much we like someone. It’s a choice to sacrificially give to them, even when they bruise our hearts, because God showed that same kind of love to us.
Not long ago, I convinced Nate (after much urging and many tears) that he needed to forgive a family member who had unintentionally hurt his feelings. He hugged said offender, mumbled something about “forgive you” and ran off crying. I found him sitting in the kitchen with his head tucked in his knees.
“Why are you crying now, buddy?”
He sniffed. “Because I had to forgive.”
“You didn’t want to forgive, but you chose to give a hug anyway, didn’t you?”
I knelt and cupped his cheek. “I’m very proud of you, Nate. Do you know what it’s called when you don’t feel like showing love to someone but you do it anyway?”
“It’s called agape love.”
Nate swiped under his nose and glared. “I does not like agape love!”
I admit, I laughed. There are times when I don’t like agape love either. It’s tough, but sometimes doing the right thing has very little to do with our feelings. It’s about obedience to Jesus.
The good news is He asks us to do those hard, humbling things because He knows it will yield at least two beautiful results. First, it frees us from potential bitterness. Second, the “likeable” feelings will follow as our hearts are emptied of anger and filled with Jesus’ love.
Of course, the easiest way to live is to like the people we’re instructed to love. Maybe that’s something to pray about. Lord, help me love people, and not just love them, but like them too.
Prayers like that will change the atmosphere around you. Folks can always tell when they’re loved. They especially notice when they are liked.