Christian Living

Do I Like People, or Do I Love Them?

Author Alan Shlemon Published on 03/14/2023

I recently wrote an article answering the charge that Christians are kind to people only so they can convert them. In the article, I explained that such a claim should not be true of Christians—that we ought to be kind to people no matter whether we can share the gospel with them or not. People are not a means to an end, but rather an end in themselves. I also explained that I am not kind to people only so I can convert them, but that I genuinely like people no matter what.

A few people offered some thoughtful pushback regarding my claim that I like people. They said it sounded too superficial. Shouldn’t I say that I love people? That’s a good question.

I think if I were to rewrite the article, I would explain why I said I like people and how that is different from saying I love them.

I intentionally used the term “like” because I didn’t want to say I “love” people. It’s not because I don’t love people. I do. In fact, believers are commanded to lovelove God, love your neighbor, love your enemies, and the list goes on. What I wanted to communicate is that I enjoy people. I enjoy talking to people who hold different values and beliefs, even ones that differ from my own. Liking something involves a pleasant feeling. That’s why I said I like people.

I didn’t say I love people because, although I do love people, it’s possible to obey the command to love people but not like them. I could love (honor, respect, and serve) my enemy but not like them. If I only said I love people, it’s possible someone could mistake what I’m saying and hear me say I love non-Christians (because I’m commanded to love them), but I don’t enjoy talking to them. That, however, is not true of me.

The truth is that I like people, but I also love them.