Loving without Liking?

I have sometimes heard that Jesus tells us we must love our neighbors and our enemies, but he doesn’t say we have to like them! This would usually make me feel pretty good. After all, it’s not too difficult to say I love someone in an abstract sort of way, especially if I can retain all my bad feelings of dislike and keep a clean conscience because Jesus didn’t command me to like them! A wise priest recently exposed for me the silliness of this type of thinking. 

This distinction between love and like can be used as a bunch of word play to ease our consciences and feel a bit better about ourselves. But in reality, I have very little of the love of God in my heart for those whom I dislike. The truth of the matter in my own life is that very often I completely fail to love them. I have discovered that it does me no good to kid myself about it; it does no good to the person I’m pretending I love; and it does a great disservice to the true nature of Love, which is God Himself.  The truth really will set you free.

When I acknowledge the truth that I am not loving and that I cannot love my neighbor or my spouse or my enemy, I am set free to do two beautiful and powerful things. Firstly, I am freed to praise God Who is Love. This praise may take the form of a prayer such as this: 

I praise you, Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, You who alone are Love. You alone are holy. Your love is great beyond my understanding. You love us poor sinners. You love Your enemies. You bless those who persecute You. You sent your Son to save us. You share Your very life with us, and You invite us to participate in Your eternal exchange of love in the Blessed Trinity, weak though we are. I praise You.

Secondly, admitting that I am powerless over my inability to love frees me to ask for and receive that power from the only One who can give it. This may take the form of a prayer such as this:

 O Lord, You see my weakness. You, Jesus, have said that without You I can do nothing (John 15:5). I am experiencing this nothingness now. I cannot muster up love no matter how hard I try. My inability to love sometimes shocks and scares me. Yet, I am comforted by Your words, “Ask and it will be given to you” (Matt 7:7). I am asking now. Let your Holy Spirit come upon me now. Fill me with Yourself, O Lord, so I can love with Your very own love for I know now that there is no other love except that which comes from You.

When my prayer is answered and the Holy Spirit fills my heart with true love for another, what a gift it is! I know in my heart that this love is very different from the kind of love I thought I had when I had said, “I love her, I just don’t like her.” 

I have realized that this praise of God who is Love and this asking for Him to fill me with His love to share with others is a constant need of mine. I may love my neighbor today and not tomorrow if I am not constantly immersed in God, asking for his strength and power to love. I have to constantly keep before me my own powerlessness and God’s great and merciful Love.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. Corinthians 13:4-8

By Clare Schiller