By Alex Welch
In reading the book of Hosea, I’ve been reminded of the recurring theme of redemption and reconciliation found throughout the Bible; and the evidence of God’s love surrounding it.
Hosea's marriage to Gomer, her unfaithfulness and eventual restoration is used as a parable for the Lord's relationship to Israel. Hosea is instructed by God to take to himself a wife of whoredom, painting a picture of Israel committing whoredom by forsaking the Lord, "her husband". Hosea indicates God's plan to restore his "marriage" with Israel. Israel is punished for the sake of bringing her to repentance. This in and of itself further emphasizes the Lord's love and desire to reconcile Israel back to Him.
Highlight of the story: a covenant relationship is reestablished between God and Israel, His people. As crazy as it seems, Israel's continual faithlessness never exhausted the Lord's redeeming love. Yet many of us still fail to see the depth of the love our Father has for His children.
The stark difference between the Lord’s unconditional love and the world's perverted version of love has grown very apparent to me lately.
The other day I typed the word "love" into an online dictionary and was given the definition: "an intense affection for another person based on familial or personal ties." According to their definition, love is"based on" something. This right here implies that we love conditionally. In other words, we love someone because they fulfill a condition that we require before we can love them.
Our love is not only conditional, it is also mercurial. We love based on feelings and emotions that can change from one moment to the next. This would explain why the divorce rate is extremely high in today's society because couples supposedly stop loving one another or they "fall out of love". They may go through a rough patch in their marriage, and they no longer "feel" love for their spouse, so they call it quits.
Evidently, our society has redefined what a covenant relationship means. After coming off of that realization and feeling slightly depressed, I was reminded that God's love for us does not depend on our love for Him. His love remains constant whether we choose to obey or reject Him. That being said, if we are truly living as imitators of Christ, we must not base our love for others on their love for us or their attitude toward us. We are to love others as Christ first loved us. Not only does Christ desire for us to love others, but He desires for us to let His love flow through our lives.
As Tyler Robison once noted in a teaching, "When we accept the fact that we've been granted love, grace and humility by Christ, that is what empowers us to grant love, grace and humility to others.” The struggle for many is simply accepting that. It's hard to live according to something you haven't truly accepted or believe yet. What peace people would encounter if they knew without a doubt that the Lord loved them fully and freely! What joy would they walk in if only they walked in the security and certainty of His love!
Yet this is a hard truth for many to grasp. Walking in the security and certainty of God’s love means extending that love towards others but being willing to recognize and accept it in their own lives. People often long to “feel” loved, yet overlook the fact that God’s love is being shown through the church body that is surrounding them. They desire a material understanding of God’s love but all the while, God’s love is being extended through the messianic community around them. In growing in the ability to recognize and accept His love shown through others, your capacity to love others grows as well.
1 John 4:8 reminds us that, "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." The words "God is love" implies that love is not only apart of His nature but the foundation of all that He has done, is doing, and will continue to do. His love is very different from human love. God's love is unconditional, and it's not based on feelings or emotions. He doesn't love us because we're lovable or because we make Him feel good; He loves us because He is love. He created us to have a loving relationship with Him, at the cost of His own Son in order to restore that relationship. What a privilege we have to get to take part in that relationship and know that we are loved by a Father whose love is inexhaustible!