Love is a multi-million dollar industry. Romance has infiltrated every media channel and many conversations. Humanity’s need to love and be loved permeates practically every aspect of society. Living on a collage campus has definitely made me more aware of the subject. There is a constant cycle of couples, engagements, weddings, breakups and searching singles—in and out, as faithful as the tide. It is no small wonder.
The desire to feel love and affirmation outside of ourselves is a clever God-innovation. The love that is focused on in society, though, often ignores the big picture. Love is beyond two people. It is the power of community, the language of sacrifice and the ultimate tool of redemption. It is a bond beyond cliché definitions and human attempts of good will. What does it mean to love?
Gomer was considered a dreg from the lowest part of society. She lived in a time when the land she lived in was prospering, but the community was consumed with idol worship and other sins. Her hometown was filled with broken, fractured people who were arrogant in their abundance and easily swayed from the Jealous Lover of their hearts. They hid behind the good times and refused to recognize their true states of being. Hosea was called by God to be one of the greatest illustrated sermons in history to this place. As a holy prophet, God called him to marry a harlot named Gomer. He lived out his life demonstrating a love that never gives up and always believes that redemption cannot fail.
The book of Hosea is about the struggle of human will. Israel’s purpose was to be God’s chosen bride, the people called to represent a living, breathing relationship with the King of the universe to all mankind. Israel was called to bring peace and redemption to all other nations. That relationship was perverted by generations of all-inclusive worship.
In the Message, Hosea 11:7 says, “My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, none at all exalt Him.” The holy, set apart people were bringing sacrifices to God and to the gods of the lands surrounding them. Hosea and Gomer’s relationship was a desperate attack against the adultery of the land.
There have been many six-point sermons and step-by-step books about "other lovers" in the lives of Christians. As a community of believers, we may be challenged for a while, or we might feel a little guilty when we hear about the jealousy of God’s love. But we often miss the point. Other lovers are not always brazen sins or acts of rebellion. The heart strays away from God one step at a time. The heart turns from our true purpose when we are dissatisfied with how life is going and not satisfied with the present. Other lovers pop up when we serve ourselves and pursue the love of society.
God had to strip away Israel’s culture, because they could not recognize the One who desperately wanted them. Even though they continually prostituted themselves with the world and let down their end of the covenant, God cared enough to reach out to the ones who echoed in His every heart beat time and time again. “How can I give up on you, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? … My heart is changed within Me; all My compassion is aroused” (Hosea 11:8, The Message). In the living sermon of the prophet and Gomer, Hosea demonstrated the God kind of love that never gives up. Gomer was faced with the choice to identify herself with either her husband or her other lovers. The same choice lays before us today.
The emerging Church is called to engage culture and breathe His redemption. In Hosea’s time, the people perished, because the spiritual leaders didn’t speak the truth. This generation will die from a lack of passion if we cannot demonstrate how to love God and each other. The situation is desperate. If we are to become leaders of society, we need to stop ignoring the fractured lives around us. We need to face our personal problems and the brokenness of society head on, because Yahweh’s heart still beats for people. He is looking for a change in thinking, not just behavior modification. It is a change of heart that will revolutionize the world, not a change of rituals. Above all, the book of Hosea reminds the body of Christ that He has called us to be a force that brings peace to the world.
So how do I practically integrate this passionate, life changing love into my everyday life? By being more conscious of my actions and words to people. By becoming a servant. By loving God first and foremost. The holiest name for God in the Hebrew language is YHWH (in English, Yahweh). This word expresses God’s name as holy and dear, pronounceable only by the air that we breathe. What does it mean to love? It means to breathe YHWH into every person and situation. It means to be a living sermon of His desires to our neighborhoods and households. It means to be stripped of our culture and identified by His Kingdom.