Monday, April 14, 2014

Liked by God

I've always believed it's possible to love someone and not particularly like them. As a teenager, for example, I always loved my parents, but sometimes I didn't really like them. Looking back at my behavior in those days, I'm confident those sentiments were at times mutual.

As Christians, we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. And we're especially called to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. But in both cases we aren't commanded to like them. In practice, that means we desire the best for those we love and sometimes work actively, at our own expense, to help bring about that good for them. And certainly it means being kind, whether we like someone or not. But it doesn't mean we have to enjoy their company or desire to hang out with them. In short, loving is a choice, but liking is a preference. The former has a strong, intrinsically moral element, while the latter is primarily a matter of taste.

All of which is merely an intro to what this post is really about: I want God to like me.

I know God loves me. That truth, in fact, may be the central motivating power of my soul's existence. Knowing that I am loved by God has been transforming me inside-out into his image for decades. Many of God's people have shown me love through the years as well, and I'm pretty sure not all of them liked me very much.

But I want not only to be loved, but to be liked, too--by other people, but especially by God.

You may say that liking or disliking are meaningless concepts with God, but I don't think so. When we read in the Word that David was a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22), I think what Paul is saying is that God really liked David. God loves everyone, but it seems he really liked David. In the same way, Jesus had lots of disciples and 12 apostles, but it seems Peter, James and John were the disciples he really liked. And from John's Gospel it appears Jesus really liked the "beloved disciple."

So I want God to like me. Granted, phrasing my desire in those terms may sound self-serving or naive. How about, "I want to be pleasing to God"? Call it what you will, but I want to be liked by God.

And when I take a look at who I really am and ask, "Does God like me?" I have to answer, "Probably not." That's because God sees not only my words and outward performance, but the real desires and darkness of my heart. And I know that, deep down, I'm not the man I like to think I am. I don't think I'm particularly unsual in this regard--we all have our shadows--but I still don't like what I sometimes see, and I'm pretty sure God doesn't, either.

So what to do? Well, I'm going to keep working to put off sin, put on Jesus Christ, and pray that I keep becoming a man whom God not only loves, but likes, too. And in the mean time, I'm holding on to these words I rediscovered this month from a song I wrote more than twenty years ago:
It seems I'm always running;
     It seems I run too fast.
Am I running the race with honor
     or letting it just slip past?
I've wounded and I've wasted,
     and my failures are a shame.
But I serve a risen Savior
     who loves me just the same.
Amen, amen, amen, and amen.

Copyright 1993, 2014, A. Milton Stanley


Blogger Bill Gnade said...

My dear Milton,

Indeed, we all want to be liked, no? It seems to be so.

Here's a question: Do we "like" Jesus? Perhaps Jesus was buds with John, Peter, and James because they actually liked him; they did not just hang with him because he was cool, popular, radical, contrarian, or revolutionary. And if you think about the Twelve including a dude named Thaddeus, which is just about the coolest name of all time, then you know some of the disciples probably considered themselves a little too cool to be "sycophants" like Peter, John and James.

2:24 PM, April 14, 2014  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Very good questions, Bill, and fun insights.

I like to think I like the Jesus I read about in the Gospels. But I wonder if I were actually there with him and had to, you know follow him around Galilee, Samaria and Judea and take instructions from him, whether or not I might grow tired of his unpredictability and start worrying too much about What Other People Think. I'm inclined to think the 25-year-old Milton might stay with him a long time, while the 50-year-old Milton would discover other pressing business to attend to around John 6.

Thanks for stopping by and being an all-around bright light on the net.

4:19 PM, April 14, 2014  
Anonymous Doug Floyd said...

Your post is provocative and helpful. I want to pause over it and let it convict. This distinction between like and love makes me think of an essay by Russian polymath Pavel Florensky on friendship. He compares agape and filia, suggesting that agape is owed to all people because of Christ. On the other hand, he suggest that filia is particular, exclusive. Then he offers an extended reflection on the harm of violating filia.

12:59 PM, April 30, 2014  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Florensky's work sounds interesting, and what you offer on his thoughts sounds right. Thanks for visiting, Doug. All the best.

11:31 AM, May 01, 2014  

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