I've heard that the Bible tells us to love others, but everyone in our family agrees that one of our cousins is impossible to love. He's obnoxious and conceited, and no one likes being around him. How can you love someone you don't like?
Yes, the Bible certainly tells us to love others, even if they aren’t very lovable! When Jesus was asked which were the most important of God’s laws, He summarized them in two commands: to love God, and to love others (see Mark 12:28-34).
But what does it mean to love others? All too often, I’m afraid, we confuse liking someone with loving them. In other words, we think loving someone is similar to liking them, only much stronger. And this isn’t necessarily wrong, as far as it goes; a husband (for example) should genuinely like his wife and enjoy being in her company.
Does this mean we can’t love someone who’s difficult to like? No, it doesn’t, not if we understand the kind of love God has for us. God loves us not because we’re perfect, or even likeable, because we aren’t. We fall far short of what He wants us to be, yet the Bible says He still loves us. And unlike our love for others, His love means He always wants what’s best for us, although we don’t deserve it.
This is the way God wants us to love others — by seeking what’s best for them. No, your cousin may not be likeable, but have you ever asked God to change him? Have you ever gone out of your way to show love for him, even if he doesn’t deserve it? Open your heart and life to Christ’s transforming love. Then remember: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).