In the last post, becoming like Jesus, I pointed out that as followers of Jesus, those of the Jesus community, there ought to be a certain sense in which we seek to be likeable to others. This has its limits, for Jesus promised his disciples that the world would hate them, and not receive their message, because the world hates Jesus. Not only so, but Jesus points out that there will be a time when "all" people will hate them (all here, likely is a hyperbole).
When I think of likeable in this context, I am thinking in terms of friendship. The Proverbs has a number of passages of friendship: 17:17; 18:24; 22:11; 27:6; 27:9. In Romans 5:7 we see a good person contrasted with a righteous person: "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die." (TNIV) I think of "good" here, with pictures of "the good Samaritan" (Luke 10), and above all, pictures from the gospels of Jesus.
There he is, eating and drinking with tax-collectors and sinners. Jesus stated what was said of him: "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'" (Matthew 11:19; TNIV) Jesus was apparently liked by "the common crowd" who thronged to see and hear him (remember Zaccheus in the tree?).
There is more to this, of course. Jesus being liked did not translate into Jesus being followed. We know many of his disciples turned away from following him, in response to his hard sayings (John 6). And Jesus certainly had his enemies, especially among the leaders.
There is much to say on enemies, but to keep this post from being way too long I will mention a few things. Proverbs promises that when God takes pleasure in someone's way, that he will cause their enemies to live at peace with them. We are told to bless those who curse us. To pray for our enemies. Do good to them. On our side to do all we can to live at peace with everyone, doing what is right in everyone's eyes (Romans 12), to give food and drink to them, to not be overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good. This is important, because we're always going to be bumping into people who don't like us.
The Church and Christian spirituality, especially as practiced in evangelical, fundamentalist circles, often (not always) seems to see little if any value in being liked. This needs to be a part of our relationships with each another in the Jesus community. That we would be friends as those whom our Lord calls his friends. This takes commitment and must be ongoing in being exemplified, because it won't be automatic (some we like, and some we don't, in any group). We can train ourselves to genuinely like others by finding the good in them, as well as any common ground.
From there, we seek to build friendships of liking and being liked, with those in the world. Like Jesus, we want to be the good person, not just the righteous person, who would lay down our lives for others.
Lord, Teach us what it means to follow you among each other, and among those who are not your followers. Let us love our neighbors as ourselves. Take away from within us, all that would unneccessarily repel others. Put within us the fragrance of your love and joy; your fragrance. That we might be real friends to others, and see them won to you. Amen.