When we talk about liking and loving, most people think that the difference between them is the intensity of the feeling, but it actually isn’t. They are quite different in fact, but still most people get them mixed all the time.
I’m not talking only about romantic relationships, this applies to all relationships in our life.
When you like someone, it is all about how that person makes you feel. You are proud of them, you like being near them, talking to them, spending time with them, etc, because they make you feel good.
However, if something happens and that person disappoints you, the feeling you have for them starts vanishing. Why? Because this feeling is based upon what you get from that person, it is conditional.
Liking is about you.
On the other hand, when you love someone, it makes you put that person’s interests before yours. No matter what the person does, even if they disappoint you, you still love them. True ove is unconditional.
Jesus said that there is no greater love than giving your life for someone else (John 15:13). This is love: you give up your most valuable possession (your life) for the one you love.
Loving is about the loved one.
When you only like someone, you’re bound to be disappointed, because people are not perfect. Sooner or later, that person will hurt your feelings. And when that happens, it might cause the relationship to end. But when you love them, it makes it easier to forgive.
There is also another important difference: liking is about how that person makes you feel; loving is about what you do for the one you love. Love is about action.
We are called by Jesus to love God with everything we’ve got, and love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). Note that we are not called to like everyone. Jesus knew that it is impossible to like even a single person all the time. But for Him, that doesn’t matter. What matters is love, is what we do for the other person, not how good we feel about them.
Loving someone doesn’t mean that you have to approve what the person does. If you don’t, you can still act with love towards them. And being fair and just and show what they’re doing wrong is an act of love too. God does that to us:
[...] because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. (Hebrews 12:6)
Next time you wonder how God can love you in spite of your shortcomings, remember that His love is the purest, deepest, strongest one, and it is totally unconditional. Even if you don’t please Him, He still loves you. But you need to love Him back if you want a relationship with Him. And that requires acting as He asks us to:
“If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15)