Both the Old and New Testament make it pretty clear that we are to love our neighbor, but nowhere in the Bible does it say that we have to like everyone. We are to love everyone, because every person is created in the image of God, but it is impossible to like everyone.
There is nothing sinful in not liking someone, and since we all have different personality traits, it is inevitable that some people will just rub us the wrong way. How we deal with that can be sinful of course, but not liking someone in and of itself is not a sin.
In saying this, I have to confess that there is a whole segment of the population I do not like. I do not like grumpy people. You know the type: people who never seem to be happy, people who have a negative outlook on almost anything and everything. There are a whole lot of people like that in the world, and when I speak of these people, I do not mean people who suffer from depression; that is a whole other matter. I simply do not like people who always seem to be unhappy and have a negative outlook on life.
And I am not the only one who doesn’t like grumpy people! Children are never drawn to a cranky person, but they are intuitively drawn to a happy and joy-filled person. There is nothing attractive about “Debbie Downers,” so please stay away from me if this description hits a little close to home.
What makes cranky, grumpy people even worse is if they are Christian. Those are the worst, because there is no room for anything else other than joy in Christianity. Sure, there will always be pain and suffering, but people who really get the “Christian thing” will always be joyful, even in the midst of adversity. The Catholic Church has never canonized a negative, grumpy pessimist; all saints have been joy-filled.
There is one particular passage in the Bible that most drives home the point that Christianity and crankiness do not mix well, and it is in the Gospel of John. The setting is the Last Supper, which means it is the day before Jesus was crucified, and he says this to the remaining Apostles: “As the Father loves me, so also I love you …. I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete” (15:9,11).
It is the first part of this quote which is actually mind-blowing. The basic Baltimore Catechism definition of the Holy Trinity is that the Trinity is three Persons in one God relating to one another in love. We cannot fathom the love the persons of the Trinity have for one another, because we are finite creatures, so our ability and capacity for love is greatly limited. God, who is infinite and without limit and without sin, can love beyond our comprehension.
With this in mind, here again are the words of Jesus: “As the Father loves me, so also I love you.” Mind blowing. God the Son loves us in the same way God the Father loves God the Son. As you are reading this, think of the person in your life whom you have loved the most. No matter how much you have loved that person, it does not even come close to how much God loves that person, and every person.
Jesus follows up these amazing words with, “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you, and your joy might be complete.” God wants us to be joyful, he wants our joy to be complete! Nothing will give joy more than knowing that we are loved by someone, but to know that we are loved by God in the same way the persons of the Trinity love one another is the cause of complete and utter joy.
So cranky, grumpy Christians are people I do not want to be around. To be a cranky Christian is to not take these words of Jesus seriously. How can we be negative on life if we believe and appreciate what Jesus is saying?
One of the greatest mystics in the history of all Christianity was the Spanish poet St. John of the Cross. This is how he put it: “Anyone who complains or grumbles is not perfect, nor even a good Christian.” So don’t be that person!
If you feel a little uncomfortable by this column, that’s probably a good thing. Be happy and joy-filled, because God loves us more than we comprehend.
Father Richard Kunst is pastor of St. James and St. Elizabeth in Duluth. Reach him at [email protected]