By: Brooke Russell, Counselor at Cord of Three
It’s February! The month we celebrate LOVE!!
The month of February, and Valentine’s Day, brings us to think about love and the meaning of love. The Bible has a LOT to say about love; so much that it’s impossible to cover everything it has to say about love without writing a book.
The Holy Spirit tells us what love does and doesn’t do in 1 Corinthians 13. There we read that love IS patient, kind, rejoices in truth, bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and it does not end! We also read that love IS NOT jealous, boastful, arrogant, rude, selfish, irritable, resentful, or delighted with doing wrong. Scripture also tells us how we are to love others.
But my personal favorites are love stories. I LOVE a good love story.
I want to share one of my favorites with you. As all love stories go it’s about a girl and a guy. She was an ordinary girl – not the prettiest girl in town. She was definitely not the most popular girl in town, at least not in the way most want to be popular. She didn’t have power or influence. She was a lot like you and me, normal in so many ways, and she desperately wanted to be loved. She wanted to be accepted – for someone to treat her like she mattered. Her desire led to some bad decisions and she’d gotten herself into trouble.
In spite of her position and circumstances, a man chose her as his bride. This man was anything but ordinary – he had power and influence. He was highly respected in the community and he was a good man. She wondered why he had chosen her when he had so much to offer and she had so little to give.
And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
They were married and she moved into his home. She spent her days waiting on his arrival and dreaming of the things they could do together. They spent time together and enjoyed all the fun of being newlyweds. Three children were born one right after another. The newness of the marriage relationship faded away. The girl experienced postpartum depression. Three small children all needed something all the time, and she couldn’t remember the last time she’d taken a bath in peace or when she last wore makeup or fixed her hair. She missed dressing up and doing something, anything, that didn’t involve children. The honeymoon days of their marriage were over and the hard days of marriage were upon her. The man would come home and be distracted with work. He worked all the time and she’d had enough of being married and alone. She began to remember her single days. How the men brought nice gifts, took her out on the town, and spent time and money on her. There was one lover she really missed. She had fun back in those days…
So, the girl ran back into the life she once lived looking for the fun she once had. She left the man she thought would be her savior behind to care for their children. He begged her to come back. He warned her of all she had to lose if she left, but she chose to leave anyway. She went off with her old lover to live a better and more exciting life.
Soon enough, the girl remembered the heartache of giving herself to someone only to be left all alone a short time later. She experienced again the hangovers that accompany the drunken parties filled with fun. And once again, left alone with nothing, she came to the realization that she was enslaved again to the life she once lived. She cried herself to sleep as it seemed nothing in her life was good. After her old lover left her again, she hit rock bottom and became desperate to survive.
After some time passed, the husband she’d left – who still loved her – heard of her desperate condition. He came to rescue her. He paid for the debts she had accumulated. He brought her home and restored her to himself as his wife. No doubt this man’s heart had been broken for the wrong done to him by the one person he loved most. He had to be scared to let her back in again, because she might hurt him once more. This man knew a secret though. He knew that God’s grace could bring him through the worst situation, and that knowledge provided him strength in his weakness to love the girl who had broken his heart (2 Corinthians 12:9). He wanted her to be faithful and to love him, and he promised to be the same to her. A woman who had made terrible mistakes. A woman who had messed up her family beyond what many would think could be repaired. This man rescued her, paid her debt, told her he loved her in spite of herself, and wanted her to be with him.
You may recognize this story – the story of the prophet Hosea and his wife Gomer. It’s about a man who married what many scholars believe was a prostitute at the direction of God. He made her his wife, and she left to go back to the lifestyle he’d saved her from only to need his loving, saving grace once again. It’s an illustration of God’s great love for us.
We have nothing to offer God but wrongdoing. Yet He loves us. His Word says love covers a multitude of sins, or wrongdoing (1 Peter 4:8). Hosea’s love for Gomer covered the multitude of her sins. God’s Word also teaches us that love is an action. Ephesians 5 tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Christ planned to die on the cross for our wrongdoing. He made the decision to love us when we were unlovable. The church had done nothing to earn Christ’s love. He made the decision before the world began, and when His time came to suffer an extremely brutal death on the cross, He did it. He loved us by dying on the cross for us. He took our place. He had to do something for us to save us…and the verb that goes there is love. Jesus chose love. His love did not just cover our sins – His love paid for our sins (1John 4:10). He said in John 10:18 “no man takes my life from me but I lay it down of my own accord.” Love is a choice. He chose to die for you and me. Jesus also said in Matthew 26:53 when he was being arrested in the garden, he could have had twelve legions of angels provided to Him to fight for Him, but He chose to go to the cross. John 15:13 tells us greater love has no man than this but he who lays down his life for his friends. Jesus did not lay down his life for friends. Jesus laid down his life for His enemies, and by doing so we were no longer His enemy but gained the privilege of being His bride. What a beautiful love story!!
In our Old Testament love story, Hosea chose to marry a less than desirable woman because he chose to love her. She betrayed him and he chose yet again to love Gomer when she was unlovable. He went after her. He found her. These actions were actions of love. He made the choice to pay her debt and bring her back home to be his bride. That act of love was a choice made when his feelings were far from what felt like love.
We aren’t told in the Bible the ending of the love story with Hosea and Gomer, but I would like to give you the ending I would write if it were my story. Gomer came home to live with her husband. She came home to her children. It was hard at first. She didn’t feel like she belonged. Tremendous guilt flooded her heart. She struggled to find her worth due to all the heartache she caused Hosea.
Over time, Hosea continued to show her she was his bride. She was the one he chose and the one he continued to love. She received all the blessings of being his wife, and slowly day by day Gomer began to see the love was real. She began to love Hosea because he loved her first. She fulfilled his request to be faithful to him, and not out of obligation or fear of abandonment. She was faithful to him because she loved him, and she wanted to do right by the one she loved. Hosea and Gomer went on to live their lives together, committed to one another, joined to only each other by love.
John 14:15 says if you love Me, you will keep My commandments. Keeping commandments, or doing everything right on the checklist, isn’t a prerequisite to God’s love but rather an expression of our love toward God. God’s gift of grace is what causes us to have a relationship with Him in the first place. If we recognize God’s saving love for us, much like Gomer recognized Hosea’s saving love for her, then our desire is to do right by the one who saved us when we couldn’t save ourselves. That is the love story of Christ Jesus, and here’s the best part – that story doesn’t have to be about someone else.
That beautiful love story can be yours.