Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Soap Opera or Salvation?

So, many of the stories in the old testament, if you didn’t know where they came from and just heard them told out of context, you might think they were the story lines of soap operas.  And I would have to say that the story of Hosea and Gomer takes the cake in that category, wouldn’t you?  Hosea and Gomer is one of those stories that people would rather forget is in the Bible at all.

I have to admit, once again, that I knew very little about this story until just recently.  I had heard that Hosea was married to a woman who kept walking out on him and that he always took her back.  But that’s pretty much it.  Wow, was I in for a shock!

Maybe some of you thought what I used to think of when I heard the story…     "That Hosea, what a doormat.  He needs to stand up for himself and quit putting up with Gomer’s games."  I was very young then.  I didn’t understand what the story of Hosea was really about – Redemption and Forgiveness.

When we remember that Hosea, like so many other Old Testament men, is a type of Christ, this story becomes the most poignant portrayal of our relationship with Jesus.  Watch Hosea struggles to hang onto his wife.  He gets frustrated and angry.  He threatens to disown her and humiliate her.  He weeps for her.  He follows her as she trails through the worst parts of society.  But then he finds her, redeems her with everything he has and then brings her home and loves her. 

We don’t often think of Christ like that.  Often we see Him as artists have portrayed Him – freshly washed white robe, neatly combed hair and an angelic, sometimes sappy look on His face.  Even on the cross, we see little or no strong emotion.  I mean, we don’t want to see anything too disturbing, right?

Remember when Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ came out, it was so controversial because of the graphic violence.  Um, what did they think the Crucifixion was?  An afternoon picnic?  It was a violent, ugly scene.  I just heard Bruce Marchiano speak at a church in New Zealand, I think.  He recounts things that happened during filming of the crucifixion scenes in The Gospel of Matthew. (I’ve talked about Bruce Marchiano before.  His is an amazing story.)  He describes how brutal just the filming was, and then he reminds us that he didn’t go through even the tiniest fraction of what Jesus went through.

If we thought about the things Jesus went through in his final days, and were really honest with ourselves, I think we would understand what our “harlotry” (as Hosea would put it) has cost Him.  It wasn’t nice and neat.  It was ugly, brutal, painful, and bloody.

Jesus struggles to hang onto us.  He must get frustrated and angry.  He weeps for us.  He follows us as we trail through the worst parts of society.  But then He finds us, redeems us with everything He has and then brings us home and loves us.  How is that possible?  My puny, little human mind really can’t wrap itself around that kind of love and forgiveness.

A friend once gave me a definition of forgiveness that, I think, is slightly different from the one most of the world lives by.  It’s this: “Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you back.”    Another author I’ve mentioned before, Richard L. Strauss, defines forgiveness as paying for “the other person’s offenses.  We will refuse to retaliate in any way to make the guilty person pay.  We will absolve him (or her) of all guilt.” Have you met many folks who use those definitions?  Wow.

That sounds a lot like 1st Corinthians 13:4-8:  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”  (italics supplied)

Jesus loves us like that. Each one of us is Gomer to His Hosea, and His heart breaks every time we sin.  He tries to guide us into what’s best for us spiritually, emotionally, healthily (?), and we fight Him every step of the way.  Sometimes we run away altogether telling ourselves that His rules are too restrictive; we need to experience life our own way.

Ya know, several months ago we found a stray shi-tzu.  He was matted; he had a skin infection, and eye infection.  He smelled and looked absolutely awful!  But we brought him home and soon named him Rugby – because he sleeps all the time and looks more like a rug than a dog.  The funny thing is, this little guy was absolutely miserable because of his eyes, his skin and his matted hair, but as soon as we started trying to clip the mats, put medicine in his eyes and give him baths, this hairy lump of dog became a wild beast!  He wiggled and squirmed and bit whatever he could get his teeth around.  I still haven’t figured out how to clip his claws.

The point is Rugby reacts to me trying to make his life better almost exactly the way we react to Jesus trying to make our lives better.  We would rather be miserable that take what Jesus knows will make us better.  And yet, Jesus keeps trying and His heart keeps breaking.

One of my favorite Loma Linda Broadcasting Network preachers is Don Pate.  He has a weekly program where he discusses the Sabbath School lesson.  He also has a radio program called Between the Lines.  Well, he has had a series of programs this week on LLBN about Jesus’ second coming.  I unfortunately missed all but this last one.  But in this program he discussed a little bit about what Heaven will be for us and for God.  Hmmm.  Never really thought about what Heaven would be like for God before.  Anyway, the point he was making was, what the best thing about Heaven will be, and he quoted another one of my favorite songwriters, Annie Herring.  Unfortunately he didn’t say which of her songs this line was from, and I’m still looking, but the line itself completely took my breath away.

“The best thing about Heaven will be that I will never break God’s heart again.”
Forget everything else you have ever heard or thought about Heaven.  Forget all the reasons you thought you wanted to go to Heaven, none of it matters anymore, because that is truly going to be the best thing about Heaven.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned,…” John 3:16-18

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