I talk and write often about the concept of likeability because I believe it can have a tremendous impact on our personal and professional lives. The most difficult feedback I receive goes like this: “Okay, what you’re saying sounds nice, but should likeability really be our primary objective?
“Was Jesus even likeable?”
This is an important point for me to address because, while I can see how the two might seem mutually exclusive, I also believe the pillars of likeability are rooted in scripture and what it teaches. Each have played an integral role in my spiritual development.
Although Jesus wasn’t always liked, I believe Jesus was always likable. Here’s why.
The world’s hatred for Jesus was theological, not sociological.
There is some overlap between the two, of course, but Jesus always made it clear the former was more important. He never fought battles over purely sociological points, unless they were important to his theology.
Likewise, Paul did not encourage Christians to be social revolutionaries.
Earthly governments were, after all, part of the temporal economy of God (Rom 13:1–7). They were a part of the old world that was passing away, and it was not Paul’s intent that the church disrupt society or overthrow governments. Rather, he encouraged Christians to be good citizens and exemplary members of their families and of their society, but to do so in a manner consistent with the teachings of Christ.
What if becoming more likable by being exemplary members of family and society is the best way to promote the Gospel message?
Jesus Responded to Hatred With Love.
Scripture warns Christians they will be hated by the world (John 15:19) but notice how the exact passage warning Christians of impending hatred also commands them to love one another. In this passage, the stark contrast between the love of Christ and the hate of the world is the same contrast that should be made between the world and Christians.
Even when Jesus was most hated, he never stopped being likable.
He never stopped being generous with everything he had, engaging others in conversation, celebrating and mourning with others, and liking other people, even those who were most awful to him. When it came time for his life to end, Jesus continued to be generous and gracious, even with those who were killing him.
When we are hated by the world, and wonder how we should respond, we should look to Jesus as our example. Despite being hated, we should continue to be likable.
The Early Church Followed Jesus’ Example
In 1 Thesselonians 4:10-12 Paul urges Christians (parakaloumen) to do four things that he believes will “win the respect of outsiders” and allow the community to “not be dependent on anybody” (v 12). The four initiatives are as follows:
- To abound more (in love)
- To aspire to live a quiet life
- To attend to their own business
- To work with their own hands
As I read these commands I can’t help but think how many parallels and connections there are with being likable. Again, the idea is not that a person can make everybody like them, all the time, or even that hatred and animosity won’t be part of the reality.
The point is to live in harmony with others as much as it depends on you (Rom 12:16).