Marriage Between God & the Church - The Example of Unconditional Love

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, February 6, 2014 1 comments

While the concept of marriage in our culture continues to be a heavily-debated one and beliefs about it seem to be increasingly distant from the declaration of Genesis 2:24, there are still some things about the marital bond that clearly distinguish it apart from any other type of relationship. It’s the only type of relationship in which God approves and even encourages sexual intimacy. For dating relationships, we use descriptors like “partner” or “significant other”. In marriage, we use phrases like “other half” or “better half”. These phrases come from the feeling that we are not even whole people until we have found our 2nd half. The idea of oneness is present only in marriage, where the man and woman can be “united together as one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). We have no other relationship like it!

Perhaps that is why it is commonly expressed that “there is no pain like that from the opposite sex”. In marriage, no one can love you the way your spouse does and no one can wound you the way your spouse does. The betrayal of spousal infidelity seems to cause more destruction and grief than any other type of betrayal. Politicians, athletes, and other celebrities have had their marital infidelity plastered all over the news and social media. Many of the murders that we read about or hear about in the news stem from someone’s desire for revenge after being betrayed by a spouse. Only when we understand the pain of adultery can we really begin to understand unconditional love, especially as it relates to how God loves his people.

In Monday’s blog, Katie talked about the example of marriage we see in the relationship between Christ and the Church. She pointed out that Jesus is God. However, the relationship between God and his “bride” goes back even further than the human life of Jesus of Nazareth. The Book of Hosea is written by the prophet of the same name. At the beginning, he writes that God told him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord” (1:2). Hosea does as God tells him and marries an adulteress named Gomer. They then have three children that are named according to what God tells them about the people of Israel. Hosea’s marriage to the adulterous woman becomes a picture of God’s relationship with Israel. The word for “church” in the Bible literally means “assembly”, and the people of Israel were the first ASSEMBLY of God’s people. So, in a sense, the “marital” relationship between God and his people began with Israel.

Before I go any further, I want to remind you that the name “Israel” literally means “struggles with God”, according to Genesis 32:28 when God changed Jacob’s name to it after he wrestled with God and survived. That in itself should show us how unconditionally God loves his “bride”. I certainly wouldn’t want to marry someone named “struggles with Logan”. Who wants to go into that type of committed relationship with that foundation? Most of us wouldn’t even enter into a business partnership in that way. Yet, God desired to love his people despite the intense pain he knew they would cause him. The rest of Hosea, whose name comes from the same root as JESUS, shows us what true and unconditional love means. At times, God is angry, not really with his “bride” but more with her choices. In Chapter 2, he chooses in love to allow her to face the consequences of her actions and experience pain that will ultimately send her back to him. After allowing her to be hurt, he says, “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her” (v. 14). Even after Israel has cheated on God, he is willing to pursue her, to woo her, to speak tenderly to her.

God tells Hosea to do the same. “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes” (3:1). Are you kidding me? They forgot what love, affection, and faithfulness they had in God and chose “sacred raisin cakes” over him! That’s like rubbing salt in the wound. To see your spouse cheat on you with someone who doesn’t love them even a fraction of the amount that you do is a tough pill to swallow. The God that created the universe was being dumped in favor of the sacred raisin cakes. Yet, he continued to love and pursue them. In a representation of God’s willingness to buy us away from our infidelity with the blood of Jesus, Hosea pays a financial price to buy back his prostitute wife (3:2). He then tells her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you” (3:3). Wow!

Hosea pays the price for his wife BEFORE he has any assurance that she will be faithful. God does the same thing with Israel and eventually with the church. He does not demand fidelity to receive his unconditional love, but also loves us too much to excuse our adultery. He allows consequences and pain to come from our choices so that we will see just how futile our pursuit of other “lovers” is and return to him. Please take time to read the rest of Hosea on your own so you can see how God balances affection and discipline, both of which are present in unconditional love. As we move into further discussion about marriage, I pray you will understand God’s intentions for it. I pray also that a clearer picture of your own adultery in spite of which God has continued to love you will motivate you to bear with the shortcomings of those around you, especially your spouse if you have one. May we continue to strive for unconditional love.


Mom Ames said...

This is a fantastic reminder that God's love for us is a model for how we are to love within the bonds of marriage. I say bonds because many times, when we aren't getting the love or respect we think we deserve from our spouse, we can wonder if it wouldn't just be better to escape what increasingly feels like bondage. Yet God shows us that if we follow His example and apply it to our lives, no matter how frustrated, hurt or bleak our marital future appears, we'll understand that marriage is a 'bind' that blesses if we have the faith and courage to stay with it. And who is blessed? The spouse who is hurting? Always. The children? Always. The extended family? Always. Those who have not yet come to Christ? Always. God always brings blessing when His 'bride-the church(believers)' love others, including their spouses unconditionally, not only when they deserve it.