Tuesday, March 15, 2016

THEFT #21 - Stealin' Back Love (but not "Like.") - Step 1

Is "I like (or don't like) him/her/it" in the Bible?

My wife (Cheryl) and I were talking about the concept of the way we, and most people, distinguish between "liking" someone and actually "loving" that person.  

By "love" we don't mean, necessarily, love in marriage, but that love which falls under several Biblical commands, e.g. "Love your neighbor as yourself;  "love one another;" "love your enemy;" and so on. By "like" we generally mean that we have a positive feeling toward someone for some reason, but we would stop short of using the word "love" to describe that feeling.

We were moved toward this discussion because of an expression that both of us have heard from various Christians during the 28 years of our marriage (and certainly before), and possibly from our own mouths at some point.  

*** It goes something like this:  "Well, I know the Bible says I need to love that person, but that doesn't mean I have to like him (or her)!" ***
Sound familiar?  Of course!  Sound righteous?  Hmmmmmmm.......

Well, regardless of such common sentiments among Christians, Cheryl and I really desire to use language about human relationships that reflects the language used in the Bible, in God's Word.  

So, being the resident theological researcher in our household, I did some searches in my trusty Bible study program on both words: "love" and "like." 

I'll put aside my results on "love" for a moment, because those results were exactly as I expected. 

It is the results for the word "like" that are striking, for one reason:  
     Out of all the occurrences of the word "like" in the Bible, not one has anything do with how one person regards or feels about another person....not one!
Instead, every occurrence of the word "like" in several English translations was a comparison between one thing or person and another: to be "like God," to be "like Jesus," to be "like the sea" or "like the sand" or "like the wind." That's it.  Absolutely nothing in Scripture to help us compare our modern concept of "I like someone" to "I love someone." Nothing.  Zip. Nada.  Nichts.

In contrast, searching for the word "love" in the Bible brings up bunches of results, and they are what we expected:  for example, "love" as strong feelings of affection; "love" as willingness to take strong action on another's behalf, sometimes to the point of sacrifice (as Christs love for people in His death on the cross); "love" as an appropriate attitude toward others in the body of Christ, often accompanied by compassion.  And, only in the Hebrew Old Testament, sometimes "love" indicates physical intimacy between a man and a woman (although this is rare, since the word "know" is more common for sexual love).

So we still have our dilemma:  
      We can define the idea of "loving" people pretty well using Scripture descriptions and examples, but we have no direct Scriptural guidance for our very common notion of "liking" people.  

What's next?

Well, since it would be futile to suggest to the English speaking world that we stop using the word "like" to describe human relationships, we probably ought to think about what we mean when we say we "like" someone, and how it differs from the Biblical idea of "love."  I think this is possible, even if my "focus group" consists of only two people at this point, i.e., my wife and myself.

And now for a list (because every blogger needs a list, or at least a "annotated" list):  

What causes us to use the phrase "I like that person?"

    1) I find that I have some interest in common with that person about which we are both passionate.  Examples: music, sports, baseball (a category clearly distinct from the more generic "sports" ;> ), films, books, hunting, fishing, camping, theology, philosophy, bungee-jumping (just waking you up), and on and on. This type of liking involves things that can be "done" together, or at least "discussed" together.  The aspect of "liking" will increase if we listen to the same type of music, or root for the same baseball team or have read the same books.

    2) I find it easy to talk to and listen to that person.  I have found that this happens totally distinct from any common interests we may or may not have. It probably would be legitimate to say that we have the same type of personality, and we just "click" at an instinctive level.

    3) I find that this person and I have a high level of agreement on ideas and issues that are important to both of us.  Example: As Christians, we both agree that the universe was created in 6 literal 24-hour days, and is therefore a "young" universe. (We could also agree on political issues, but I just don't want to go there in this blog, and-frankly-it isn't nearly as important to me as agreement on Biblical issues.)

    4) I find that this person and I have the same sense of humor, that we find the same sorts of things funny.  (NOTE:  This may sound like an "interest" belonging in #1 above, but here I do not mean "we like the same type of comedy;"  but rather that we find the same types of thing funny that we encounter in the course of everyday life. In a nutshell, we make each other laugh.)

Those are probably enough examples to illustrate what my wife and I usually mean when we say "I like that person."  

The next step is a bit trickier:  

Now we need to identify words or ideas in Scripture that describe why we use the word "like" in the four examples given above.  We have to pay particular attention to words used to describe words or ideas used about God--other than "love"--that describe His positive attitudes toward His people, since--to whatever extent possible--we should have those same attitudes.

Step 2 soon....

Grace and peace - The Thief

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