My friend asked this question at our women’s Bible study, and some shook heads of no, others sat unsure and thinking.
Is it a sin to not like someone?
We had just read how the first word preached by John the Baptist was “repent” (Matt 5:22). How the first word of Jesus’ gospel was “repent” (Matt 4:17), and how the message of the first preaching ministry of the disciples was “repent” (Mark 6:12). Clearly, it’s an important and repeated message–something we not so much feel as do–a change of direction in the heart.
As we talked about a clear heart, the question arose. Is it wrong to not like someone?
Let’s face it, we all have someone…
A nasty neighbor or coworker. A bully at school or contentious family member. Disagreements, misunderstandings and insults abound. Anger. And maybe more… maybe someone took something from us that can’t be replaced, tarnished our reputation or abused us. Maybe we struggle with forgiveness.
And so I sat there pondering these things in my heart, wondering if Jesus disliked anyone. Thinking how his own people requested his crucifixion; how Roman soldiers whipped and mocked him, crowned him with thorns and nailed him to a cross to die. How His response to all of this was, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:35).
But He called the pharisees “hypocrites” and “snakes” in Matthew 23, and I wondered how that translated in his heart. He hated legalism and rebuked them openly for practicing it (and harming others with it), clearly. But did he dislike them?
He died to save them. And us.
But what if our dislike is justified?
When a man asked Jesus which of all the commandments was the greatest, He said:
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matt 22:37-39)
I don’t understand that to mean we should seek to surround ourselves with harmful people or allow them to abuse us. I don’t translate that to have no emotions or to bury our true feelings. We all feel and need time to process emotions.
We all have our private battles of faith.
But I understand this as a desire for a pure heart that pleases God and wants to love like He loves. A desire to ask Him for help over time and repeatedly; to pursue a love that is bigger than ourselves and can only come from Him. A love that leads us to repentance when we find dark spots in our hearts that we can’t cure on our own.
Leviticus 19:18 says, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.“
And I love this version of Luke 6:32-35 from the Message:
If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that. I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never – I promise – regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst.”
Because loving like that is stepping out onto a whole different plane. It’s a clearing of the heart, making a way for what’s good. And maybe that’s why Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
So I’m left with a stirring in my heart and a gratefulness for this question. Jesus told us to love one another. And so I take that, and I ask God to let me live it.
Laurie T Bauer says
Jesus never said that we had to like everyone, but he did command that we LOVE everyone. I do not believe it is a sin. Not loving people, though, is a sin. I work with a lot of different women, all with different personalities. There are definitely some that I do not like for many different reasons. But I do love them and wish the best for them. The feelings are different. It can be a challenge at times to separate the two and I think Jesus knew this. This is a wonderful teaching tool for others to see in our lives. You may not like those in power, family members, etc., but you should still pray for them and show them the love that Jesus would show.
Jenn Johns says
Wow. This is a great comment Laurie! You really have me thinking. And so comes the distinction between like and love and what we do with it, how we process it and act on it. Thank you for this challenge as I dig deeper into this question.
Shannon Collins says
I have been discussing this with a group I am assisting. The “things” that were indicated that were not liked were behaviors, actions, etc. This is not the same as the person. Like you indicated, we need to be repentant and ask for forgiveness for feeling discontent or even hatred towards someone. That person may not be aware there is an issue with their behavior, they may have unresolved trauma, etc. How can we show God’s agape-type of love, which is what we are called to do when He says to love one another as I have loved you, if we do it with conditions. I love this person, but I don’t like what they say, do, act, etc.? If we ask God to heal our hearts, then we become closer to Him and closer to the person He created us to be. While Jesus rebuked many individuals, he did it with love, he did not like the actions of the individuals, but I believe he also knew their actions were brought on by the devil planting breadcrumbs in their lives, not who they are as a person.
Laurie, I was exactly thinking the same. Now with this coronavirus going around (even though your comment is from 2017), I dont wish anyone to catch it, even persons we dont like, hate or are enemies. Praying for everyone, wishing them the best, I think that’s what Jesus/God expect from us.
So I guess thats a kind of love. Is it not?
This is a good question but I agree with Laurie… the answer for me is no. Love is such a big word and I think most humans really miss the hugeness of it. God is Love. That’s huge. And if we were all looking at each other through God’s eyes, there would be nothing other than love. But like is a different thing. I think like is related to our thoughts and actions and should ultimately be kept within that box, not wrapped around the whole person. We may not like what someone does (or some other cultural or social difference we have) but we are commanded to love each other. We’ll get it one day.
Jenn Johns says
I loved reading your perspective on this Nanci, thank you! I’ve wondered though if we hang on to our dislike of someone or a group of people, if that doesn’t ultimately harden our hearts? I think and pray on this question. When I catch myself not liking someone, it’s a warning sign to me. It reminds me to pray for the person and for my heart. But maybe the word “sin” doesn’t quite correlate.
Yes! We slowly build a wall of bitterness when not covering the whole “liking” odea with conplete actions of Love.( 1 Corinthians 13) is how we are to display love. Once we love with actions qe will quickly realize how much our minds set on “feelings” guiding us.
Shannon Collins says
If we give up the control, that as humans we so desire to have, and give it all to God, then why do we feel the necessity to dislike anyone for their actions or thoughts? If we are to show God’s love through us as individuals, does not that cover a multitude of sins?
Noel Bressler says
Jen! How interesting, your blog is SO reminiscent of my “old” blog which I just moved on from…only in the context of the headings and what not. It’s thirddayhair.com if you want to see what I mean (I no longer post to that site but I think it’s quite a coincidence that they’re so similar)!
Have a great week!!
Jenn Johns says
Oh my gosh you’re RIGHT Noel! I just looked at thirddayhair.com, it’s the same blog theme! Haha great minds think alike 😉
Hey Jenn! Loved reading this post. From one of Karen Kingsbury’s books I learnt something beautiful that will stay with me forever, and that is – ‘Love is a choice’. So I guess, I agree with the others in the distinction between like and love, while i agree with you on the importance to make that choice to love! So yes to dislike someone is not a sin but to make a choice to not love them is one.
I think the word “Like” and “Love” are different.Jesus did command us to Love our neighbpour as ourselves not “Like”.You can love everyone as God is Love but you might not like everyone.
You gotta dig deeper than the surface: Jesus calls us to be honest and truthful to him.
When I don’t like someone I asked myself questions:
2. Where is this coming from?
3. What did they do for me not to like them and is it really them?
4. How can I see her through Jesus’s eyes ?
5. What expectations do I have of this person that I need to lay down?
You gotta ask and talk to yourself and ask yourself questions.
You gotta learn to love yourself to love others.
We have to see in the perspective of Jesus. Because there might be people who don’t like you. What is it that you have to change to be more like Jesus.
Jo Barry says
Yes, God is love. We must be careful not to allow the “dislike” for someone to “affect” our actions, motives, and thoughts. Oftentimes when we don’t like someone, our actions towards them are one of indifference.
Ben Benson says
I see this blog post is about two years old now, but my struggle is fresh. I’m on staff at a church, and we’ve recently hired someone who is insufferably grandiose and self-congratulatory, and at the same time incredibly fragile, insecure, and obsessed with people liking him. His behavior has been partly shaped by his past, whether it be toxic leadership, preferential treatment by his mother, or any number of other things, who knows. When different groups of staff members go on occasional social outings, he complains about being excluded, and it feels like we’re dealing with an enormous man-child.
I also realize that this place is part of the redemptive story God is writing for this guy. God has moved in this man’s life and He has brought this person here, for us to love. I don’t like this person. I force myself to be excited about his projects. I praise him openly in meetings because I know it satisfies and soothes his fragile ego. When he makes requests, no matter how rudely, I immediately and cheerfully comply.
On the other side of it, I don’t prefer him. I feel like I can love this guy and not prefer to spend time with him outside of work. Being in his presence and building him up and being kind and courteous is part of my job, so at the end of the day I don’t want to be doing my job, I want to be relaxing.
I don’t know. I’m struggling with “is being kind and gentle enough, or do we have to be golfing buddies?” We prefer people in layers. I prefer spending time with my wife more than with my friends. I prefer spending time with my friends more than with Grandiose Insecure Pastor Guy. So, he just comes last and I make sure that the people and relationships that matter to me get my energy first.
I’m afraid of dialoging with this fella about the relationship because it’ll be a challenge to stay even and not speak from frustration or anger. But part of me feels like this could be massively helpful to EVERYONE if we do talk.
Ben Benson says
One other thought – our pastor tells us often “you can’t be mad at who you pray for,” and this piece of holy advice is all that’s keeping me sane.
Eloise Edmondson says
I always felt that to love was commanded by god,to like is my personal feelings that’s not liking the person persay,but their ways and actions
I don’t agree disliking people is to focus on the flesh and will lead to sin for you or more sin for them indirectly it will created a perfect environment for more sin. So Christians should not dislike people they should hate the sin and pray against the devil using people and preach Christ to them. If it is not safe to be around someone obviously use wisdom.
Cheryl Ashley says
Thanks for posing this question. Its got me looking deeper into the why I don’t like certain people. It tells a lot about myself where I’m closed off and where I need more understanding/forgiveness. But I do not think it is a sin. I don’t think that Jesus liked everyone pardon my example. Like the Pharisees he just didn’t like how hypocritical they were, etc. But he LOVED them because they too needed a relationship with the Father. They too were harrassed and helpless needing to be saved. Jesus love is so much bigger than this world! Since the Bible says “Love your enemies”, I believe there are people who just won’t like/prefer us and we won’t like/prefer them. But we absolutely need to remain unified and through Love 1 Cor 13 we will grow to conquer all else.
Louise Hawkins says
Thanks everyone for your posts I really needed to read them. I’m struggling with several Church members who ousted the assistant pastor because of dislike. He had begun teaching on fasting and prayer which the pastor never taught about. Bible study had grew and I myself grew tremendously. Now these “leaders refuses to allow this man to perform any duties in the church” but he continues to attend worship never says anthing negative about anyone. He lives the life that Jesus said we should do about loving our enemies. My heart hurts for the way they treats him. I don’t hate anyone but I dislike them for what they’re doing. I’m crying out to God for directions. Please Pray For Me.
A simple answer or question worth pondering.
Did Jesus like what the people who were selling scarifices in the temple doing? If He did, why the whip or cords?
But did He truly love them & die for their sins also? Of course yes…
The only challenge is not to allowe satan to turn the unlikingness to bitterness & hatred. Keeping and arms length makes more sense 🙂 See the dispute of Barnabbas & Paul in tje book of Acts.
Wow! Finally I got a webpage from where I be able to really
take helpful data regarding my study and knowledge.
Can you REALLY love someone you don’t like? You SHOULD love someone you don’t like, and would probably feel like a hypocrite if you don’t *love them, but true Biblical love is patient and kind. I believe true biblical love must like that person also. If you think about why you don’t “like” that person you are called to love, the answer will reveal ones own sinful heart rather than the persons own failings. It almost makes me think about correlations between the heart and actions- If you hate someone you are guilty of murder… I’d also say if you dislike someone you are guilty of lovelessness. What do you do with people you don’t like? You avoid them, don’t invite them to things, probably show partiality, become annoyed, etc..
Gina Castell says
This brought conviction on me, bc telling my sister that I was not crazy for her soon to be daughter-in-law really hurt her. The Bible talks more about hatred than dislike. I know I read a scripture that said the dislike of others has no place in God‘s kingdom. However, I cannot find it. The bottom line is it’s kind of hard to love someone we decide not to like. I think we need to repent of our not liking people because it can lead us to think the worst of them and blame them, or have unforgiveness towards them. It’s not easy, but that’s why we have the Holy Spirit.
Melissa Brotton says
Jenn, this is a wonderful post, and I found it helpful to know that other Christians wrestle with this issue. I find that I tend to dislike others when they are committing some kind of sin, such as lying or belittling others or cheating to get ahead. Therefore, I wonder if it is the person I dislike or the actions that I dislike. Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” This means that when others try to hurt us, it is the Devil and his armies fighting against us, using cruel words to send the hurt even deeper, calling up old grudges against people and urging us to hate them. If we learn how to fight the way Christ wants us to, with the power of His word, we can learn to say no to the Satanic thoughts that flood our hearts and keep us in a dark place with someone. Jesus has promised He will fight against Satan for us when we use the sword of His word. Because the Devil knows his time is short, he has come down to try to destroy as many Christian lives as possible by working through the unconverted people around us. They act like they are our enemies without knowing that the real Enemy of souls is behind what they are saying. Therefore, we can be like Jesus was on the cross and say, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” The martyr Stephen, also, when he was being stoned, cried out to God to forgive them. Only with the power of God can we stop hatred from filling our hearts in an evil age. Our God is with us to cleanse and revive our hearts at any moment, and He will be a shield to us when we call on Him for help. “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.” (Ps. 34:17). I am trying to live more by the Word of God and less by my feelings. Impossible with humans, but everything is possible with God.