Then I told her, “You are to live with me for many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.”—Hosea 3:3 (NIV)
Christianity is about a tragic marriage. The word ‘tragic’ cannot fully carry the weight of what this marriage represents.
We don’t like tragedies, let alone, scandals. We prefer peace, serenity, putting on an appearance that other people will be attracted to. We maintain a moral front in the public eye, which is meant to score points for us.
We are spiritual. We go to church, and some of us lead bible study classes. We love God when He is dealing with us—because based on our judgement—we are clean, do not utter swear words, misbehave or even enter wrong situations. Our moral compass is promising.
But how do we treat the idea of God relating to those who are different from us—the riffraff or the immoral of this world?
Back to the tragic marriage: God instructs his prophet, Hosea, to go and marry a prostitute called Gomer. But even after bearing children for Hosea, Gomer continues to go back into prostitution.
Now the tragedy is when God tells Hosea to go and buy her back even if she is loved by others. This book, however, does not give us the opinion of the religious folks in Hosea’s day but this might have been a time of heightened tension.
A gracious God is not so popular in church because he is so extravagant with His gifts and most of the time He tends to take this grace thing to the extreme. He encourages sin, apathy, and laziness by giving without restriction. He also has a bad relationship with boundaries, and he lacks class.
How can a God who calls Himself holy and righteous bend towards the unholy and unrighteous like prostitutes and tax collectors and thieves and rapists and money launderers and all the misfits this world has to offer?
We love to think that this God would set a standard but He stubbornly doesn’t. The prophet Jonah, when he was sent to go and announce that God was extending grace to the immoral of the immoral in Nineveh, his mind couldn’t process it, he chose to run to Tarshish.
According to Jonah, God was not being too mean with His gifts. He says in his prayer that the Compassion of God towards misfits who don’t deserve it angered him (Jonah 4:1-4)
What annoys church people about God is this buying back that God has made His mission. He seems to have nothing to do except buy back the riffraff from their different pit holes and dumpsters with the blood of His Son. He hasn’t even noticed that all the dinosaurs are dead.
But why are we angry? Why do we hate the message of God’s free forgiveness? Why do we think that some people are taking this grace talk to the extreme? J. I. Packers writes: “For modern men and women are convinced that, despite their little peccadilloes – drinking, gambling, reckless driving, sexual laxity, black and white lies, sharp practice in trading, dirty reading, and what have you – they are at heart thoroughly good folks.”
Its people who see themselves as good who get angry and aggressive when what they think is their share, is distributed to those who did no work at all.
Like the older brother when the gangster young brother was welcomed home. Like Jonah, when God moved graciously towards wicked Nineveh. Like the Pharisees when Jesus welcomed tax collectors and prostitutes. Like the workers who were angry because those who came at 5:30 in the evening were receiving the same pay as them who had worked since morning.
Until we get over this silly idea that we are good people and come to terms with our badness—that “No one is good except God alone. (Mark 10:18)”—we will always put our efforts before God’s gifts and therefore get angry when God bestows these same gifts to those who have done no work to merit them.
As Jack Miller would say: “Cheer up; you’re a lot worse off than you think you are, but in Jesus you’re far more loved than you could have ever imagined”. Celebrate that, not your little sweat-stained trophies.
That is your Lifeline, AMEN.