Question: Do Christian people have the option to not love or not like people?
Answer: I think this question is purposed in the tussle between love and trust.
I think there are no genuine Christians who dispute we must love everyone unconditionally. Jesus himself commanded us to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-39). Indeed, as Jesus said, all the Law and the Prophets (i.e. the Old Testament or Moses and Elijah, as representatives respectively of the Law and the Prophets, i.e. everything they stood for) “hang on these.”
There really is no doubt about this.
Where we get confused is possibly differentiating between love and trust.
We Don’t Have to Trust People Who Hurt Us/Others
Jesus never commanded us to trust everyone unconditionally.
Wisdom now walks through the door. Life dictates that people will hurt us or others close to us and that is untenable to us only via the future trust we needn’t invest in any relationship we have with them. For the time being they’ve burned their bridges with us. Wisdom suggests we’re prudent and use our discretion in deciding whom we trust.
But hear this. We must still forgive them and allow them chances should they prove their repentance to us. We are to be merciful and fair in this endeavour, even to looking for positive signs of change in their lives that suggests it’s time for a second chance.
We do not delay our forgiveness. In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus discusses his Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor—in essence, we’ve been forgiven by God far more than anyone could ever transgress us personally; we too, therefore, must forgive the comparative little that people do against us.
It’s the same for us regarding second chances. We know times when we’ve disappointed or betrayed people and lost their trust and respect as a result. If we were being fair back then we understood it from their viewpoint. If they forgave us we felt their mercy; if they didn’t forgive us, we felt unfairly treated no matter how bad we were to them. We probably understood, however, their lack of trust in us and, as a result, we copped it sweet.
Liking and Love
So, if we’ve made the decision to not trust someone as they’ve betrayed our faith in them, do we have to like them?
The short answer is, yes we do. Liking is a form of love, and in this context it’s framed in forgiveness. If we don’t like someone in this situation it’s indicating we’ve not truly forgiven them. This is a sin against us personally as much as it’s a sin against them and God.
Forgiveness is a funny concept. It’s not the perfect transaction unless we forgive and they accept that forgiveness. But it must start from us. I can’t see how we can dislike someone having forgiven them. We might dislike what people choose to do, but we don’t dislike them.
Making it Clear
As Christians we must work on forgiving people who transgress us; we must do this continually, even up to 490 times a day (Matthew 18:22) which is obviously hyperbole, meaning ‘continually.’ The outcome of forgiveness is loving and liking action—the antithesis of condemning or judging behaviour.
We do have options over trust, however.
Wisdom informs us as to whom we’re to trust and what shape that will take. Wisdom is as much from God as love and truth are. God owns wisdom. His Spirit will assist us in determining who and when we’re to trust.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.