What if God Loves Me But Does Not Like Me?

Do you think that concept is a contradiction -- that God could love someone but not be very fond of the same person? What would this look like practically? From the standpoint of someone, the argument is maintained as God loving a person as a parent loves a child, but that parent not actually liking the child: the parent is not fond of the choices, personality, desires, preferences, characteristics or mannerisms of the child. The love the parent possesses for the child resides within the heart but the parent does not care for the ways of the child on a deeply and inner personal level.

Odd, really, how the conversations overheard by one's parents can tend to influence how the child views the ways, and even love, of God. Someone once heard her mother say that another parent loves her daughter but cannot stand her ways; the mother will still "be there" for the daughter, if she is in need, but she does not care to spend quality time with her because she does not like her on a personal level. What if God behaves in similar manner? What if God can love someone, "be there" for the person if he or she is in need, but does not particularly like the individual? Is this a possible reality?

We know that God retains the ability to hate an individual on a deeply personal level. The Psalmist declares of God: "you hate all evildoers . . . the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful" (Ps. 5:5, 6); "The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates the lover of violence" (Ps. 11:5). Here we do not find a "love the sinner and hate the sin" motif: God personally hates some people -- those whose sole intent is evil; those who love bloody violence; those who are deceitful. If a person perpetuates these attributes, the individual can be loved by God by putting an end to that which warrants God's hatred, as we discover at Psalm 7:12. No one is fated to be evil.

But can God love and not like a person at the same time? I am uncertain; the apostle Paul notes that God proves God's love for us in that "while we still were sinners Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8) We know what real love is: "We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us" (1 John 3:16). We also know that, while we were enemies of God, we "were reconciled to God through the death of his Son." (Rom. 5:10) We may posit from the apostle, then, that God can love the enemies of God (cf. the words of Jesus at Matthew 5:43-48: God, we think, would not command us toward a loving attitude regarding our enemies if God, from God's own essence, did not reflect the same value).

So, then, God is capable of loving enemies whose choices, personality, desires, preferences, characteristics or mannerisms are, to declare an understatement, less than holy, perfect, righteous (i.e., right or maintaining "rightness"). But our primary question may not be an appropriate one. The love that God has for us is actually holy, perfect, righteous and just (that which refers to justice). Of course God, humanly stated, does not "like" our selfishness, greed, lust, bickering, hatred, lying, backbiting, gossip, character-destroying, laziness, wastefulness, pride, arrogance, violence and whatever else pertains to our present fallen condition. Yet God loves us still.

I think we have enough to study in the scriptures concerning the love of God to keep us all busy for an entire lifetime. We can wrestle over ecclesiology, soteriology, eschatology, pneumatology and any other theological position we each defend on a fairly regular basis. But why God loves the kind of people mentioned in the previous paragraph -- and that includes each one of us -- is the mystery of all mysteries.



So, you have been convinced that God loves you because Jesus died (and was raised) on your behalf, and you have settled that issue in your mind. But in your heart you feel as though God does not really like you. Have I ever felt like this? Yes, my friend, for this is how I presently feel. Why? Because what I want in my life right now is to love someone deeply, romantically, and to be loved immensely in return.1 At times I feel as though my loneliness is slowly killing me on the inside. I, at times, feel like I am dying of a broken heart that is unloved, unwanted, unneeded. Where is God? I feel the silence of God like an uncomfortable hot breath on my back. I resonate now with C.S. Lewis:
Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be -- or so it feels -- welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away [and go home to your loneliness]. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become.2
What if loving someone intimately, romantically, is how some people experience the love of God? I am not suggesting we confuse or conflate romantic love, or érōs, with divine love. What I am suggesting is that God understands fully that human beings need a special relationship with each other that complements, if you will, one another. God states that Adam's loneliness is not good (Gen. 2:18). Is God not enough? According to God's own views, I think God answers that question, in that one's inner longing for a loving relationship with another human being is valid and is some sort of extension of God's creative love. Our self-sacrificial love for another reflects the love of God.

Is there any hope? Can you and I overcome this feeling that, though God may love us, God does not really like us? Here we must concentrate on Jesus or we will lose all semblance of hope. What is a sacrifice (and I am here encouraging myself as much as any reader)? An English definition of "sacrifice" suggests an "act of giving up something highly valued for the sake of something else considered to have a greater value or claim." (TheFreeDictionary) I am not suggesting that we are of greater value than Christ to God. But this offering does remind me of the following words of Jesus in prayer to God: "The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:22, 23, emphasis added) God, who sent Christ Jesus to die for me (and Jesus did so quite freely and willingly), loves me as God loves Jesus?

Does God like Jesus? Of course God likes Jesus! Well, if God loves me as God loves Jesus then why should I imagine that God does not like me? Henri Nouwen enlightens us: "Trust in God allows us to live with active expectation, not cynicism. When we view life as a gift, as something given to us by a loving God, not wrestled by us from an impersonal fate, we remember that at the heart of reality rests the love of God itself."3 You encourage me and I will encourage you toward faith in the reality of God both liking and loving us from eternity to eternity -- in spite of our feelings, in spite of our circumstances -- all because Jesus has shown us this reality of the love of God.

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1 I realize that, with all of the turmoil and tragedies evident in the world today, this post may seem trivial at best. I ask, however, that we not underestimate the power of depression, wrong thinking, and one's relationship with God. We are permitted to pray for those in need while also considering our own state of being.

What does God have to do with this loneliness and feeling unliked by the God who self-sacrificially loves me and all of us? I am merely thinking out loud as to whether I might feel differently if I were in a relationship. We are all different, I realize, and we each maintain various "love languages" (to quote author Gary Chapman). My inner make-up is emotional, creative, and romantic. I feel liked, loved, and appreciated most when I am affirmed by someone with whom I am involved romantically. Husband, think of the times when your wife is affirming, and appreciative of all you do. Is that not a great feeling? Is that not a hundred times more intense, more affirming, then any pat on the back from a parent or a church member? I long for the same.

My parents are loving and affirming; my church family is the same; but I gain a sense of affirmation most with someone with whom I am involved romantically; and, from those heterosexual couples with whom I have asked, many of them have agreed.

2 C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (New York: HarperOne, 1996), 5-6.

3 Henri J.M. Nouwen, Turn My Mourning into Dancing: Finding Hope in Hard Times (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2001), 51.