One of my favourite books of the Bible, even as a child, was Hosea.
I was fascinated by this story of a man who was told to marry a prostitute and to care for her and love her despite her unfaithfulness. Even when she ran away from him and back to her old life and old lovers, he went after her and brought her back again. Relentless love.
God compares this situation to his relationship with his people, Israel. He shows them love and fights for their freedom, while they betray him again and again by ignoring his commands and following other gods. But God does not give up on them and keeps speaking to them through prophets and then through his son, Jesus. God becomes man in Jesus to reveal his love and to die on the cross for all the sins of the world, to make reconciliation and life with God possible.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve known God for quite a long time and yet again and again I still do exactly the same thing as Hosea’s wife or Israel. I am unfaithful.
I even love telling other people about God and how Jesus changed my life – and yet sometimes I am doing exactly the opposite of what God wants me to, or ignoring him or doubting everything I always believed in. Like a married person encouraging young people to believe in and honour marriage, while at the same time thinking of committing adultery.
How can that be?
How can I be so unfaithful to someone I love so much?
Because love is a decision and love is a verb and growing in love is a process.
God is love and he will never be untrue to his character.
Just like God is truth and justice.
But me? I still have a heart full of rebellion that is slowly being transformed by God.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that Jesus died on the cross for every one of my sins and that I am a new person in Jesus – I am made righteous and justified before God and free from the slavery of sin. But the process of allowing God to really transform my heart and my life and becoming more like Jesus is going to take until I die. That is why love is a decision. I made the decision to accept what Jesus did for me on the cross, but that’s not something I just cross off my list and forget about. Every day I have to decide to let my love for Jesus determine my thoughts and actions. Just like when you’re married and its not just about the wedding day vows – every day you get up and decide to act in love and be patient with each other. To love when the other person does things that annoy you or when you don’t agree on something. Whether its something trivial, but daily, like the right way to put away clothes (in the cupboard, on the floor…) or a big decision that could affect where you move as a family (honey, how do you feel about moving to Mexico or Japan?). And that’s what makes love a verb. That decision of how you act and how you react. I can say “I love you”, but someone wont believe me if my actions don’t back up that statement. If I am not kind or show interest in a person, make an effort to spend time with them and am patient with their shortcomings. In the same way if someone claims to love me, but never does anything to show that he truly cares for me – that makes the words seem pretty meaningless.
With my love for God, I can also express that love through action. Its not about doing good works to get brownie points in heaven – its about expressing my love for God by showing trust and obedience in what I do. I read his word, the Bible and let it guide me. I talk to God and ask him for wisdom. I look at how Jesus lived and strive to follow his example – loving and serving other people and teaching them about God. Some days I really feel like doing these things, because I feel that I’m in love with Jesus and it just comes naturally to me to do what is on his heart. Other days maybe less or not at all. But again, just like in any relationship – you don’t just walk out the door when you don’t feel those butterflies or you’re having a bad day. That would be ridiculous. You keep trusting and keep acting in love, no matter what you feel. And you go through ups and downs that actually end up making both your love and your trust grow stronger.
And the most amazing part of it all is that God is never unfaithful.
In a love relationship between two people, both parties make mistakes and have to forgive each other and show grace, be patient, give each other second chances. With God, He never fails me. I may not always understand him (happens a lot) or understand why something happened (that happens quite often too) I might get frustrated by things I pray for not happening immediately (also happened) but he never fails me and his love never changes.
And despite my many failures, he always forgives me. Just like with Hosea and his wife – when I go off track, God calls me back. He doesn’t like the stuff I do wrong, but his love is greater than all my mistakes.
And that’s what makes me want to go back to him always. To say I’m sorry and to ask him to change my heart. I want to be more like him. I want to be faithful and love unconditionally.
Got a ways to go yet!