Stage 3: Hosea’s Risky Love, part 1
Hosea puts to rest that old cliché that the Old Testament is about the God of Law and Judgement and the New Testament is about the God of Love. The God of the Hebrew Scriptures is much more complex than such an adage can describe. As is the God of the New Testament, of course. But here we have a God who calls for risky love. It is a love that responds lovingly even when hurt, even when not returned.
So, how do we present that risky, prophetic love without falling into sentimentality? By telling stories. Who can tell of how someone never gave up on them, though they made bad choices repeatedly? Who can describe caring for a parent who no longer recognizes them and even lashes out at them? Who can relate a story of setting boundaries and sticking to them, even while holding out hope for transformation? Better yet, who could tell of seeing that, observing someone loving like that? Or who can talk about receiving that, experiencing that kind of risky love?
Who tells the story is an important consideration. One of the functions of the body of Christ is to lift one another up. Just like with the discernment of gifts, we don’t always see this kind of risky love in ourselves. Others may be able to see what we are doing better than we can. Maybe invite the congregation to nominate those who show this kind of perseverance in love. Maybe ask this week for everyone to think of someone and then report back next week for part two of “Hosea’s Risky Love”
A key element to this understanding of risky love is that we are also called to love those who are hard to love. We aren’t given permission to cut off anyone here. We don’t draw lines and say we’ll love this one and not that one. And there is risk, of course, that is why it is called risky love. But we go forward with eyes wide open. We aren’t fodder for abuse; that’s not loving. Sometimes we are called to love from a distance. Sometimes to protect ourselves and others, we have to withdraw, but we can still love. We can still hope for transformation; we can still fervently pray for the other to fulfill all that God has in store for them. Hosea was called to love like that. And so are we.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.