Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I am Gomer. (and so are you!)

This past weekend I had the privilege of preaching at a friends wedding. It was a destination wedding, and so no one had a home church to go to. So since the wedding was on Sunday afternoon, the bride and groom organized a church service Sunday morning for all the wedding guests, and I was the preacher.

I chose Hosea 2:14 and following as my text, but generally spoke about three whole story of Hosea. It seems like an unlikely choice of text for a wedding weekend, particularly if you know how great the two people getting married are. Why talk about a guy who marries a prostitute? But as I promised them at the beginning, this story has a happy ending.

The little morality play acted out by Hosea, in marrying Gomer, then having kids, then her leaving, and Hosea going out to find her, and buy her back, and bring her home, is, of course, the story of the gospel. We are represented by Gomer. We are sinners, an unfaithful bunch of people, who offend our God, and leave him repeatedly, despite his love for us. We are hopeless. We need a Hosea. And the good news of the gospel is that we have a Hosea, one whose name literally means salvation. God is like the husband who though sinned against in the most grievous way, will still go out and find his lost wife. He hunts us down. He will not allow us to get our own way, when our way means leaving God to pursue lesser pleasures.

The story of Hosea is a representation, in the starkest way possible, of the grace of God in the gospel.

But, being that it was the day of a wedding, I also tried to make some application to our own marriages. Of course, in the story, one member of the marriage represents sinners, and the other represents God. In our own marriages we have a different problem. We are all Gomers. We are all sinners, who sin against the Lord, but also against one another. We are all prone to wander, and we all hurt our spouses, in profound, and personal ways from time to time. What are we to do if we are both Gomers?

First, of course, this means we all need salvation from the ultimate Hosea! But there is also help here for our marriages. If we are all Gomer, then we also all need to play the part of Hosea to one another. Hosea 3:1 records what God commanded Hosea, "Go, again, love your wife, though she is loved by another.... as the Lord loves Israel." Or, as I like to summarize it for our sakes, "Go, again, love your wife, although she is imperfect, does not live up to your expectations.... just like the Lord loves you."

And it doesn't just go one way, wives need to love their husbands in the same way, loving them again, although we are imperfect, just like the Lord loves us. In our marriages we have an opportunity in every day life to demonstrate the grace of God in the gospel to one another. By loving each other purely as an act of grace, even when we deserve something else, and to do so because that is the way that God has loved us.

Marriage is a small scale stage on which we can act out the drama of the gospel. We do this for the sake of the other, and for the sake of the watching world. So that they can see how we love each other. And maybe they will ask why in the world did you not consign him to the doghouse for the evening after what he did to you? And we will tell them that God has never consigned us to the doghouse. He loves us. Again.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Forgiving Love

“Forgiving love is a possibility only for those who know that they are not good, who feel themselves in need of divine mercy…”

Ran across that quotation by Reinhold Niebuhr in Christianity Today. For someone who reads their Bible it’s not particularly surprising—Jesus said it long ago (Matthew 6:12, Matthew 18:21-35) and Christians ethics is based on the concept.

No, I shouldn’t call it a concept… It’s something more real and more animating than your everyday concept. Those who know the reality of God’s forgiveness know the power of words such as these: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:30). And what a weighty thing it is to have words like these in your mouth when you approach a holy God: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

So even though the quotation isn’t surprising, it is profound. And, if you are having trouble forgiving someone, it is also very practical. People aren’t going to find forgiveness possible if they don’t see their own need for forgiveness.

But don’t stop reading yet. The best part of this short post is this…

What is amazing about the God who saves, the God described in the pages of Scripture, is that He forgives freely.

God made provision for our salvation not because He knew He Himself needed forgiveness but out of a freely given mercy. People who think they are perfect don’t forgive well; but God in His perfection forgave those who hated His perfection. He still does to this day.

And Jesus, God in the flesh, forgave those who hated and abused Him—not because He needed forgiveness, but in order to provide forgiveness.