I love you.
How do you know if those three words are true when spoken to you? While words can be meaningful, it is truly only action that defines love. Love is a verb, it is not a feeling that comes and goes. Love is a choice and it is not always easy to love. If it were easy to love our neighbor there would be no war, no murder, no racism, no oppression, and so on.
In today’s reading (Hosea 3:1-4:10), God tells Hosea to love his wife Gomer even though she commits adultery. She was a prostitute, seemingly unlovable, amongst the lowest of low in any society.
Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.” (Hosea 3:1 NLT)
It is easy to judge Gomer for her choices. She continues to go back to the same sin, and even though she had a husband, she chose to turn to other men. Unfortunately this is the same for you and I as we choose to go back to our sin and disobey God over and over. We exchange God’s loving arms and his perfect ways for something quite the opposite. This verse from Proverbs keeps coming to mind:
Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. (Proverbs 26:11)
Think about how Hosea must have felt. Betrayed, embarrassed, and unloved by his wife. Even if he were to obey God and take her back, how much is he going to trust her after her history?
Hosea takes the step to be faithful and obey God, and he goes so far as to buy his wife back. He redeems her. He loves her unconditionally. While God told him to do it, he was the one to make the choice.
Jesus loves us unconditionally even though we are like prostitutes, exchanging something pure and good for something cheap and wrong. We worship our own idols (money, power, experiences, ourselves, things of this world) instead of wholehearted dedication to God. When Jesus experienced the cross he too was rejected and betrayed, even by his best friends. Yet, he redeemed us as he paid the price, voluntarily giving up his life to set us free.
Like Gomer, we did not earn this redemption. She didn’t earn her husband’s love. From a worldly perspective, she didn’t even deserve his love. And that’s the beauty of Jesus and his love for us. We can’t buy it, we don’t deserve it, we can’t earn it. All we need to do is accept it, follow him, and be redeemed, for eternity.