Pursuing love

“I did all that I could to undo me, but You loved me enough to pursue me.” It seems I’ve been hearing the song with those lyrics a lot on the radio lately – and I’m thankful I have. I need constant reminders that God loved me enough to pursue me.

A lot of people think God pursues them like a police officer pursuing someone to give him a ticket or like a coach pursuing a player to tell him he ran the play wrong. God does not want us to see His pursuit of us in that way. He pursues us out of love. He pursues as one who keeps on even though he has been told, “No, I’m not interested in you.” He still loves and He still wants a relationship with us.

The story in the Bible of the prophet Hosea is one of the most unusual and shocking love stories you’ll ever find. The Lord tells His prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute. “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” (Hosea 1:2). Some try to make the story understandable by saying it is just a parable. But it is clear: it really happened.

In a book about Hosea called Pursued Jud Wilhite writes, “As irrational, unexpected, and painful as it may seem to us, God is so passionate about us that He commanded Hosea to engage in a marriage that would crush his heart, just as God’s heart had been crushed.” It’s difficult for us to imagine God telling a prophet to do this, but Wilhite says God did it because “God clearly has a divine obsession with us, His children. And measures we would consider outrageous, to say the least, are not beyond His limit to get His point across.”

Hosea marries the prostitute Gomer. He is a faithful, loving husband, but his wife, Gomer, continues to be an adulteress. But the Lord doesn’t give up. He calls Hosea to pursue Gomer. “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” (Hosea 3:1).

Hosea’s love for Gomer doesn’t make sense. And neither does God’s love for us. As Wilhite says, “… what we see in Hosea is … a love that defies all logic and beats all odds.”

You are loved today with a love that defies all logic. God loves you so much He chooses to pursue you, even if that pursuit seems foolish. His crazy, full-of-love-for-you pursuit led Jesus to go all the way to the cross to give His life for you.

Some may feel like the only time they get pursued is when somebody wants them to do something for them. It’s different with the Lord. He doesn’t pursue us simply because He wants more workers. He pursues us because He loves us and wants to be in a relationship of love with us.

Charlie Brown would look in his mailbox, wishing somebody would send him a Valentine. Instead of looking in the mailbox with wishful longing, look in the Bible and find the logic-defying, never-give-up, keep-on-pursuing love that Jesus has for you.hqdefault

His kindness draws us in

“How can I get them to love me?” That’s a question we often wrestle with. It seems a little wild and crazy to think that the Almighty Lord of the universe would ask that kind of question. What adds to the craziness is the fact that the ones He longs to have love Him are undeserving, rebellious sinners like us. We might get a little uncomfortable with the idea that God is like a guy who is totally in love and longing for his beloved to take an interest in him. And yet in the Old Testament book of Hosea the Lord tells the prophet, “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” (Hosea 3:1).

The Lord’s love for us is like a man sending flowers and jewelry and expensive chocolates to a woman who left him, embarrassed him and is living with another man. People tell a guy like that, “You’re a fool for loving her. You’re too good for her. Forget her.” But God’s ways aren’t our ways. He keeps pursuing us. He keeps trying to draw us back. He keeps longing for us to love Him.

When we love something else more than we love God we become an adulteress. But amazingly God still wants us and calls us to repent and turn to Him. It would be gracious of God to love ones like us after we spent much time begging Him to do so. What is mind-blowing about His grace is that He loved us first, before we had any interest in loving Him. “We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).

The way people often try to get someone to love them is by impressing them. They let the person know of their great accomplishments and abilities. They try to show off their looks and their talents.

God, of course, could put on the most impressive show of all. If He wanted to He could intimidate and scare people into following Him. But the Lord graciously says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

God draws us into a loving relationship with Him by showering kindness and faithful love upon us. His plan for how to get us to love Him and follow Him is not by impressing or intimidating us, but by being kind and sacrificially loving us. His loving-kindness is seen most of all in God demonstrating “his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

In speech and actions, posts and tweets, the world seems to be showing less and less kindness. The world thinks being bold and brash, assertive and fighting back is the way to go. The world’s methods may seem sensible to human reason and impress for a moment, but they don’t draw people into a relationship with Christ. “God’s kindness leads you toward repentance” (Romans 2:4).

Being a kind, humble, gentle servant doesn’t sound like the way to get attention and applause. It may not impress the crowd but it will draw the humble and repentant to the love of Christ. And that is the mission of the church: not to show off to the world what we have done and can do, but to draw them to God’s grace and love. We draw them with kindness that is undeserved and love that is unfailing. We seek to draw them to the gracious loving-kindness of Jesus.

Someone who suffers well

“Do they suffer well?” That is probably not one of the first questions people ask when they consider whether or not somebody might make a good future spouse. But in a recent blog  Kevin Thompson suggests it is a question people should ask. He writes about “The Most Overlooked Characteristic of Who You Want to Marry.” Suffering is an unavoidable part of life in this fallen world. You can tell a lot about a person by how they deal with suffering. “Not everyone suffers well. Some live in denial. … Some live in despair. … Find someone who suffers well.”

That doesn’t sound very romantic. It’s not the kind of thing the world looks for. The world is asking questions like: Are they fun? What do they look like? Are they successful?

It’s not so hard to find someone who will laugh with you and want to be with you when you’re doing well and times are good. It’s a little more complicated to find someone who will cry with you when times are tough, who will stick by you and support you when you’re not so much fun to be around, who will believe in your future when you don’t believe in it yourself, who will lift you up and carry you along when you’re too weary to make it on your own.

Finding someone who suffers well is something to look for not just in who you want to marry but also in who you want as a friend you can count on. We all face trials and suffering in this life. God doesn’t want any of us to struggle through those tough times alone. We need friends who will patiently listen, share an encouraging word, remind us of the love of Jesus, let us know they care and let us know that by God’s grace better days are going to come.

God’s vision for a local congregation is that it would be a group of people that suffer well together. “But God has combined the members of the body … so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (I Corinthians 12:24-26). When one part of our physical body is hurting, the rest of the body gets involved. It’s the same in the body of Christ. When our brother or sister in Christ is hurting, we hurt with them. We have seen that happen in our congregation. In the midst of trials it has been great to see and experience people suffering well together.

We find in Jesus the best friend who suffers well. He is “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). He keeps on loving us even when we’re not so loveable. He is willing to be with us and go through the hard times right beside us. He suffers with us and for us. And through His suffering on the cross for our sin, He gives us hope that one day the suffering will end. “What a Friend we have in Jesus.”