Mark Driscoll was interviewing me on video and asked me a strange question, something like, ‘it seems to me you don’t just love God, you really like him’.
This really threw me. What do you say in response? It was such an unexpected phrase. ‘Liking’ seems too irreligious; was it even inappropriate? It certainly sounded so much less than, ‘do you love God’, but he was asking in a way that made it sound more. How could that be? How could ‘liking’ compete with ‘loving’? I mumbled an inadequate reply, but now, a couple of years later – I am thinking about it again.
I guess we tend to invest the word ‘love’, when referring to our attitude to God, with such religious appropriateness that it can sound inevitable, maybe even formal. Of course as Christians we ‘love God’. How could we say, ‘No, we don’t love God’? We often sing about that love. Whoever sang a hymn or spiritual song claiming that we liked God?
So what was he getting at? I think he was trying to get under the skin of my relationship with God to discover what might be there.
Maybe I could ask you. Do you like God? I wonder how you would answer. Don’t grab a dictionary and see if there is some help in discovering the word’s derivation and if it has some hidden meaning. In a sense the word ‘like’ is casual, kind of careless. I like all sorts of things from snowflakes to sausages.
But with regard to people, there are some you know well enough to like. You like being around them. You like their company. You miss them when absent. We would probably regard ‘liking’ as a stepping stone towards ‘loving’. I guess I ‘liked’ Wendy before I loved her and asked her to marry me. Having loved her though, I never stopped liking her.
I remember a conversation I had years ago with a Christian lady in India whose marriage was arranged by her father (not rare in India). She hardly knew her husband when they wed, but with complete candour, she said ‘I learned to love him’. I didn’t think to ask her if she liked him.
Though Mark Driscoll’s question embarrassed me at the time, it is certainly worth a revisit. To gain some insight I just looked up ‘like’ in my Thesaurus. Fascinating! I find such things as ‘be friends with’, ‘get on well with’, ‘rub along with’, ‘keep company with’, ‘go about together’, ‘be inseparable’, ‘sympathise’, ‘understand’ and ‘become fond’. I am really comfortable with these. These sound like the kind of privileges on offer through the Gospel, the wonder of his friendship and companionship; the possibility of being inseparable. Yes, I really like him.
Then I stumble on some other words in my Thesaurus, ‘hobnob’, ‘get pally’, ‘get matey’, ‘chum’, ‘buddy’. I begin to feel a little uncomfortable. Words are funny aren’t they? They carry overtones. I was once in a church where the children were being encouraged to sing ‘God is great; he’s my mate’. I cringed. Yes he’s great but surely not your ‘mate’.
But do you like him? I remember a worship song that I so loved singing. It began ‘Heavenly Father, I appreciate you’. I was so grateful for another word I could use, full of meaning, full of truth, so helpful. It continued by returning to more conventional language ‘I love you, adore you, bow down before you, Heavenly Father I appreciate you’.
But I do appreciate him. I am so grateful for his friendship. I want to keep company with him, I am so fond of him. I’d love to truly be inseparable. Yes I like him.