If you had an audience with God today, what would you ask? If you knew He would audibly answer one question, what would you want the answer to be? I want to say that I would have some big theological question, or perhaps the obvious “why do bad things happen” would fly out of my mouth without a second thought, but I don’t think so. In honest moments, when my disbelief is louder than faith, the same question always makes a headline in my mind, “Do you love us?” In a world that is wrestling with illness, economic troubles and earthquakes (not to mention the suffering we find much closer to home), I doubt that you have not experienced at some point the desire to know deeper that His love is real.
So, when I find myself with that question again, I find Hosea. Hosea, a prophet of God, was commanded by the Lord to do something that would cost Him dearly, over and over again. Hosea, as an example to the Israelites, married a harlot named Gomer. Hosea walked willingly into a marriage that he knew would result in infidelity, often. You can close your eyes and almost hear the gossip that must have circulated, “Hosea, the prophet? Marrying, Gomer?” All eyes must have been on him and his marriage — but what they probably did not know at first was that it was not just Hosea and Gomer they were watching, but also themselves and God. As the book of Hosea tells the readers, God commanded Hosea to be an example of God in His pursuit of loveless Israel. The quest for other loves and lifeless idols was an ongoing theme in Israel’s history, but so was the never-ending love of God. The beautiful implications and revelations of God throughout Hosea are simply this: He’ll never stop. Deeper and deeper still, God moves into our mess, into our doubts and into our hearts that are prone to wander to say, “No, no, look up” where we look beyond a prophet and find ourselves in the gospels at the foot of a cross, seeing just how far our God will come, in love.
When Jesus came, His love was astonishing. In a culture that disregarded the disabled, He chose to acknowledge them and give healing. In a time where women had no cultural status, He called them daughters. In a religious order where tax collectors and prostitutes were the dust of the earth, Jesus ate dinner with them. He looked into the lives of people with deep compassion, mercy and overflowing love. Imagine, He knows that what the Israelites needed was not to be rescued from Rome but themselves. Jesus would endlessly teach, and yet the people came for the miracles. Jesus loved us at the cross, but He loved us far before that too. Jesus loved us when it would mean being betrayed, hated and disregarded. He loved me far before I knew what love was, and even as I breathe out a prayer of doubt, His answer has already been revealed to me in the personhood of Jesus Christ with a resounding yes, He certainly does love us.
What do you do when you are loved? You talk about it. As a city with thousands of people in our backyards who do not know the gospel, may we live out what Jesus told His disciples in John 13:35, “By this people will know you are my disciples, if you have a love for one another.” Love is costly, but it is also lovely. Love that will go the distance, love that forgives no matter the circumstances, and a love that sees a person through the lens of mercy, is a love that draws people into questions and asks, “How?” So, when they ask us how we can love at all costs, may we proclaim the excellencies of a God who has gone before us, loved us, saved us and is pursuing us ever still.