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Pointers along the way #156

Love, hate, like, dislike
- Jacob Ninan

Sometimes in our attempt to follow the scriptures we tend to be unrealistic to the point of being naive. It is good to believe what the Bible says, even when we can't understand it fully, because we can't expect to understand with our small mind everything that God has written there. At the same time, when general experience does not match with what we think the Bible is saying, don't we need to question whether we have misunderstood the scriptures? We are not trying to question the Bible itself, but just trying to see if our understanding is correct.

One example is where we try to imagine that the other people are better than us, based on Php.2:3. Sometimes we have to force ourselves to hold this view even though there is strong evidence to the contrary staring at our face! The problem is because of the King James version which uses the word 'better' in this verse. But NASB and CEV use "more important", and the Message Bible says, "Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead." Doesn't this make better sense?

A similar problem exists in the case of loving and hating people. We tend to think that 'love' and 'hate' are stronger forms of 'like' and 'dislike.' So if we don't like someone, we think we don't love him. But the Bible commands us to love one another, and we have a struggle trying to love someone we don't really like. But this is not what the Bible wants us to understand.

The Greek word used in Jn.13:34 is 'agapao.' 'Agape' is used for God's love for us, which He shows us even when we don't deserve it. The Bible says that God demonstrated His agape love for us in that He let Christ die for us even when we were sinners (Ro.5:8). What do we see here about His love? It is an overflow of the goodness of His heart and not dependent on the state of our lives or our response. Even though we were His enemies, as sinners, He intended to do us good, and desired that we should get to experience His salvation.

Do you think God liked the way we were living, our behaviour, attitudes, etc.? He is so holy that He hates sin. He didn't like what He saw in us, but still He loved us with an unconditional love. He didn't want us to suffer in our sins, and He Himself suffered in our place so that we could come to experience forgiveness and deliverance from sin. Charles Finney, in his 'Systematic Theology' has described love as benevolence that desires the highest good for others.

Think of someone we don't like. We can still love him with agape love, can't we? We can desire only good for him! Of course this assumes that we have forgiven him and hold no desire for vengeance. Even if he hasn't done anything wrong to us and it is just that we don't like him, we can still wish him the very best. This is the beginning of agape! How we express this love depends also on him and is not entirely up to us (Ro.12:18). But we can love him from our heart, pray for his welfare, bless him, etc.