I like God
I sat around a table with some friends and asked them if they liked God. I'll spare you the details but the discussion that followed gave a lot of reasons why we "loved" God and were grateful to him and respect him. One person said they didn't really like to say they "liked" God because it seems to lower him or show disrespect. Though we knew there was a difference we had difficulty expressing the difference between the words, whether we spoke about God or someone else.
None of this was surprising, for don't we use words all the time that we "just know" the meaning of until someone presses us for a definition? I don't say that we should talk like suspicious lawyers and I don't even say that having a correct definition of the lovely big words we use is essential to enjoying fully what they mean. In fact, sometimes defining can be a blunder. As Percy Ainsworth somewhere said to a group of listeners, "I'd define that for you but I want you to understand it." (My suspicion is that we have over-defined the (especially) New Testament word "agape" and that it has lost a lot of its earthiness and contact with real life. Coming to Christ doesn't make us less human; it makes us more human.)
All the same, I'm sure you'll agree with our little group that "liking" and "loving" do have their own thrusts though they may now and then overlap or be used interchangeably. It's clear that like is a weaker and more limited word than love. But though that's true, the word like serves a purpose that the word "love" doesn't. It has it own peculiar province and we often hear it when we hear people say in a ruffled moment about someone they hold dear, "I love him but I don't like him." (I've heard it quite a bit when a parent is speaking about a child who at that time was being a sustained pain in the neck.) When we hear such a remark we know what the people mean even if we can't express very well the distinction.
I suppose it would be all right to say that to like someone means we find them pleasing, agreeable; that we enjoy being around them, that they strike chords within us that charm and delight us. These kinds of emotional responses need not take place in the absence of "love" but if we like someone we can experience those feelings even if we aren't committed to that person by a sense of duty or covenant or some more solemn and serious connection.
The word "like" is more surface, isn't it? And yet, it's not without its great depths. We don't honour the word "like" as we do the word "love" when "love" is used in its nobler senses.
In the movie the Man of La Mancha the squire (Sancho Panza) is delivering a message to Aldonza from his master Don Quixote. She thinks Don Quixote a lunatic and comes after the squire, pressing and demanding an explanation.
"Tell me, why do you follow him?"
"That's easy to explain. It's a...sort of crusade..."
"All those people in distress..." (he stammers)
"I'm telling you..." (more stammering)
He has no rational answers so he gives up and with a sheepish grin he tells the truth. "I like him. I really like him."
He goes on to say he's his squire and she asks how a squire squires. He says he follows after him, Don Quixote fights and he (reluctantly he admits) picks him up.
"And what do you get out of it?"
"Plenty, why I've already got..." (more baffled looks)
"You get nothing; so why do you do it?"
Beaten in argument but true to his heart he says and sings, "I like him!"
I think I have a real sense that God comes after us to redeem us from all that is evil and gloomy and that he means for us to live in holy fellowship but the idea that he doesn't "like" us, that is, find pleasure and delight in us—I won't believe it! I'll be hanged if I believe it! (I can too easily imagine Jesus laughing with his friends till his sides nearly split.)
Though I am and have been a great sinner I can't deny that I love God—that is, have made a covenant commitment to him in Jesus—but I can hardly wait until I mature to where I like him. I can't help thinking that somewhere down in the depths, beyond my grasp at the moment, that if we don't "like" God not only are we missing out on a profound pleasure we haven't matured in our love" because who can love someone or something and not find pleasure in him/her or in it?