Can you love a person but not like them?

Jesus tells His disciples, and by extension all of His followers, to love each other (John 13:34), their neighbors (Luke 10:25–37), their enemies (Luke 6:27–28)—in essence, everyone. But He does not say that we must like everyone or be friends with everyone.

The Greek word for love in each of the passages mentioned above is agapao, or agape love. Agape love is a selfless, often sacrificial, love wherein the object of love is the most important person in the exchange. It is a love that looks to the best interests of others and acts to meet those interests. Agape love does not necessarily require affection as it is not primarily about the emotions of those involved.

Jesus sets the example for us with His sacrificial love. Romans 5:8 says, "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." First John 4:19 says, "We love because he first loved us." Our response to God's undeserved love for us is to love others—deservingly or not.

We see in Jesus' life demonstration of love for what would be considered "undesirables." He called lowly fishermen and hated tax collectors as disciples; interacted with the despised Samaritans; and showed "sinners," Romans, women, children, and even the corrupt religious leaders of the day care, patience, forgiveness, and love. Whether to the outcasts of society or the people antagonist toward Him, Jesus demonstrated true love to others. This was not always a comfortable or affectionate love, but was always truthful and a demonstration of God's grace.

It will take the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us to love those we don't like. Often in seeking to love others in a way that is for their benefit, we find ourselves disliking them less. It is difficult to both despise someone emotionally and love them in deed at the same time. But there may also be people who we simply dislike, no matter what we do, whom we are still called upon to love.

When we decide to view each person as a creation of God made in His image, as someone He loves and for whom Jesus willingly died on the cross so that God could reconcile people to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19–21), it becomes easier to love with God's love. The more we have God's perspective, the less it will matter whether we like a person or not.

One important caution: Love is not the same thing as trust. Some people cannot be trusted and we are not called, usually, to put ourselves in physical or emotional danger in order to love someone. Jesus removed Himself from the crowds for His own protection at times because He knew their hearts (John 5:13; 6:15). We, too, can be wise in the specific actions we are called to take in love. Ask God for wisdom and discernment (James 1:5).

As we become more aware of God's deep love for us and grow in His truth and our love for Him, we are increasingly able to love others with godly love. The more we know God and allow Him to work in us, the more His love will flow through us, regardless of affection (Galatians 5:22–23).

Related Truth:

What is meant by the command to love one another?

Why is loving others often so hard to do?

What should Christians do when they have disputes (Matthew 18:15–17)?

Why should we forgive?

What is a biblical definition of true friendship?

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