I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately.
I wonder: Can the human heart comprehend what it means to really love others well? I know I want to. I want to love as God loves, but too often when confronted with a contentious situation, I’m not proud of my response.
I have read and re-read the story of Hosea in recent months. He was a prophet given an impossible task. God’s very first “assignment” to him was one that would make most anyone cringe. God told him in Hosea 1:2, “Go and marry a girl who is a prostitute, so that some of her children will be born to you from other men” (TLB).
God may as well have said, “You know all those dreams and plans you have? Toss those out the window, and get ready for a tough life.” Hosea obeyed and chose a local prostitute named Gomer. But God didn’t just ask him to marry her; He told Hosea to love her. Love the unlovely. Be faithful to the wandering. Pursue a woman who pursues other men.
It’s so far outside the realm of self to intentionally live in that kind of radical obedience and love. Hosea willingly walked into a mess with his heart wide open simply because he was loving God.
God’s intention through this marriage was to illustrate Israel’s wanderings and worshiping of other gods. It may seem that God wasn’t loving Hosea very much, but what He asked of him was for the sake of love. It was God’s radical love for His people that propelled Him. It was His attempt to win back their hearts.
Had Hosea not already been entangled in a deep-seated love affair with God, this story would not have been possible. Because to love others with — and in spite of — our deepest selves, we must first love God with abandon and in the deepest places of our souls. It was this love that enabled Hosea to stay the course when it felt impossible, as I’m sure it did many of his days.
After a few years of marriage and three children, Gomer ran away from Hosea to seek the love of other men. But God wasn’t done with the object lesson that was Hosea’s life. When Gomer’s folly was completely spent, God told Hosea, “Go, and get your wife again, and bring her back to you and love her, even though she loves adultery” (3:1, TLB)
This drama that Hosea withstood played out publicly. How else was God to make His point to Israel? It’s one thing for God to ask Hosea to weather this shame and dishonor in private, but to endure it in front of the nation? Don’t you know there was some trash talk happening in town? But instead of becoming indignant and defensive to those witnessing the fiasco, Hosea strode to the lovers of his wife, paid a price for her, brought her home and loved her.
God said of Israel in Hosea 2:14, “But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there” (NLT).
This story quickens my heart to love. It begs the question, what does my life need to look like for God to make His point to those around me? Do I allow God to speak tenderly to others through my life?
I don’t want to simply attempt to love from the place of my own bumps and bruises, perceptions and filters. I want to love deeply from a foundational love affair with the heart of the Father.
Romans 5:8 says, “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (NLT). When we are confronted with a love like this, we have no choice but to respond in kind.
What would happen in our relationships if our objective was not self-gratification or fulfillment, but simply to live love? When the antagonist in our lives receives not contention, but love from us, what do you think the outcome will be? Perhaps our actions can communicate God’s heart instead of our frustrations.
What if I care more about you than me?
Yes, I have hopes and dreams, as did Hosea, but my greatest desire should always be to love. Love God. Love others. At the end of my life, whether or not I’m where I dreamed I would be, and whether or not I accomplished all I planned, I can only hope I loved well along the way.