They're everywhere! They're everywhere! Hearts, flowers, chocolate, even greeting cards that sing mushy love songs. We are surrounded daily by reminders that this is the month of love, yet I'm not so sure there isn't more guilt than actual affection being offered up to prove we care. It's a basic desire for all of us, isn't it?
To be loved, genuinely loved. And when we see a movie or hear a story about true love, many of us sigh and wonder what it would be like to know that kind of faithfulness. The Biblical account of the parable Hosea gives us instruction on that very thing as he models God's unconditional love.
Hosea followed God's command and married Gomer, a prostitute, and together they had three children.
Things appeared to be rolling along nicely, until, that is, Gomer decided that prostitution offered a little more excitement and, betraying her husband's commitment and devotion, chose that option. No doubt more than a few eyebrows were raised. After all, no one could have blamed Hosea had he left Gomer in the dust and just gone about his fatherly duties.
Instead, Hosea lived up to his name ("salvation"), ignored others' suggestive looks, and wooed his wife to return.
That story illustrates God's love affair with Israel and His relationship with us, for just as Hosea remained faithful to Gomer, God's unwavering love for us is unconditional.
We, however, like Gomer, choose to prostitute ourselves by selling out to unworthy desires. Far too consistently, many of us leave our Father to clutter our lives with people and things we reverence. It's easy to condemn Gomer while we hypocritically justify our own behaviors that cause us to rebel and go our own way, and far too often we are oblivious to God's faithfulness to bring us home. Paul speaks of this far-reaching love in his letter to the Romans: "Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Last week I met with a woman whose husband has admitted to her that he loves another woman and they are trying to have a baby together.
He drives over an hour to be with his new lover and then returns home to be intimate with his wife. She spoke of the STD he gave her and the painful treatment she had to endure.
My first reaction? Shoot him. How I didn't voice that aloud shocks even me. I offered to her the predictable options: counseling for the two of them -- he refused; counseling for her alone -- she had already gone and had been told to "turn the other cheek." Shoot the counselor, too, I told myself. "Well," I asked this mother of three, "If you get AIDS and die, who will raise your children? My advice is that you do some serious praying, but separation is clearly an option here." We chatted for a while longer and then she had to go.
Scripture says nothing about Gomer ever repenting, and we have to surmise Hosea's family and friends had to question his decision to welcome her back. It is an amazing story of restitution and mercy, just like God's toward us, and when I read of Hosea showing his unfaithful spouse that same kind of love, I have to pray I counseled my sweet friend correctly.
Honestly, I'm just not sure.