“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:46, NIV 2011).
Ever have a patient you just didn’t like? You see them head down the hall to the exam room and you just frown and sigh? Nathaniel was one of those guys. He wasn’t a bad person, but his attitude and comments just irked me with each visit.
For two years he returned, each visit as unpleasant as the last. Each time, I took care of him the best I could, until this week.
This week, Nathaniel was pleasant, intelligent and, much like most of my patients, a pleasure to serve.
I thought as he left, “This man is okay.”
Do you think Jesus ever ran into folks He didn’t like? I know He loved everyone enough to die for them, but did He really like them all? I mean, sometimes around certain Pharisees all day, perhaps He thought, “When will this day be over?”
Is it okay for Christians to dislike, for Christian healthcare professionals to dislike some patients they serve or colleagues with whom they work? Liking someone means enjoying one’s presence; liking requires shared personality traits and shared goals. When people clash in these areas, it is natural to have displeasure around each other, to dislike each other. I suspect this is as much a part of our humanity as are our earlobes. I think that it may not at all be a sin to dislike. Of course, I may be totally out to lunch on this.
What is clearly wrong is to not love someone you dislike, not to will good for them and seek their best, even at a cost to yourself. Love is harder when “like” is not attached, but it is still the call of God on our lives and the call of the cross.
The neat thing about acting in love when you dislike someone is what I learned from Nathaniel. If we keep acting in love toward those we do not like, we may eventually find ourselves liking the ones we loved. I suspect that I like Nathaniel now, not because he changed, but because my loving him changed me.
Let me love with your heart and hands, for “while we were yet sinners” you died for us.