is true love possible?

From a young age, boys and girls grow up with the stories of true love like Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, and countless romantic classics that depict men as chivalrous rescuers and woman as radiant beauties. As we grow older we love still stories like The Notebook and Braveheart because women want to be pursued and men want to sweep their beauty off their feet. We are wired to want life long love.

The Bible has a lot to say about love and relationships. Thus far we have discussed four of God’s standards for relationships. First, both partners must be faithful followers committed to Jesus Christ. Second, marriage is a picture of a divine and permanent relationship. Third, sexual intimacy is for the marriage bed only. Fourth, every relationship with the opposite sex must be viewed as sacred. And today we will see that you cannot get a refund your relationships.

You live a world where you can return anything. Even dumping your lover or signing divorce papers are easy as taking back a pair of shoes to Payless. So what’s the use of marriage vows? A vow is not “I hope so” or “I will try my best”; rather it is “I will!”  When I gazed into the eyes of my wife on the altar during our wedding ceremony I repeated to her, “I Justin, take you Sarah, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death takes us apart. And this day pledge to you my faithfulness.” In that moment, I was sobered by the serious this vow. I was committing myself to another human being. When it comes to relationships—particularly marriage—there is no return policy. No divorce or dumping can erase one-flesh.

Is true love possible?

Have you ever heard of the love story of Hosea and Gomer? With a name like Gomer it must be one amazing love story!? Gomer might not sound beautiful, but the story of Hosea and Gomer is one of the most endearing true love stories of the Bible. Hosea the prophet married Gomer the prostitute. Now most romances usually do not begin like this, but God arranged this marriage. However, through their relationship you will see a husband’s unconditional love for his wife.

Hosea knew about Gomer’s promiscuous past and probably knew that being married to a woman with this kind of baggage would not be easy. He was right. After they had three children together [1:2-9], Gomer ran away from her home and went back to work selling herself on the street. In our day, she would be arrested and removed of all custody to be near her children. In her day, she could have been killed or sold into slavery. She was running from more than her husband and children, she was running from God.

God let Gomer run for a little while through the thorns, but He did not let her run for long [2:6-10]. All the while He was right besides her, pursuing her heart, blocking her path, and whispering in her ear, “Where are you running to, my dear child.” God is a pursuer-lover. He does not let go of those He loves, even if they shamelessly spit in His face.

The story of Hosea and Gomer has such similarity to story of the father and his prodigal son [Luke 15:11-32]. The son asked for an early installment on his dad’s inheritance. The dad graciously gave it up to his son only to have him bolt immediately to blow it all in a Vegas night. The night ends with the son wrestling pigs for their slop. The father freely let his son run, but when the son came back begging for mercy the father embraced his son and threw him a welcome home celebration. God gives you freedom to run with boundaries. Your God-given freedom does not give you the right to break God’s guidelines for life for this will make you a slave to your own sinful passions.

Gomer came to the place where she had nothing.  She was stripped of everything. I suppose she reaped what she sowed; she got what she deserved. In her mind, the only solution was to sell herself as a slave. The story does not end on here; Hosea buys Gomer from the slave market [3:1-3]. Can you picture the moment? Can you see Hosea leaving his home, looking in his wallet at the money he would use to purchase back his promiscuous wife and mommy of three children? Can you hear the auctioneer bidding with Hosea responding, “15 pieces of silver”? I can imagine Gomer’s eyes filling with tears as she sees her husband pursuing her to restore her as his wife.

The love story of Hosea and Gomer mirrors Gods love towards Israel. God in a sense wed Himself to an unfaithful people. God made a covenant relationship with Israel. This covenant came with blessings and curses depending on Israel’s fidelity and loyalty. Since, Israel was unfaithful the curses were being activated [cf. blessings and curses of Deuteronomy 28; R.C Sproul, Curse Motif].

What are the relationship lessons learned from Hosea and Gomer?

First, God is angered by unfaithfulness. God is particularly outraged by unfaithfulness towards Him. When you rebel against God there must be a consequence. God is like a jealous husband who desires His wife solely and for her not to share her love with another.

Second, God is a loyal lover. God’s faithful love is unfathomable. Although the people He loves are unfaithful He bends over backwards to buy back His promiscuous bride. He runs with an eager pursuit to express His unconditional love to His people.

Third, idolatry can creep into any relationship. Israel’s unfaithfulness had to do with their love for another god. Moreover their religious practices became an idol that clouded them from seeing their One True Love. Idolatry is sharing your love with something other than God. People can be idols, but God never meant for marriage to be-all.

Fourth, God’s anger and love must lead to our repentance. This is the gospelman is responsible to God, man rebels against God, Jesus redeems man, and man responds to God’s love. Instead of Gomer being on the auction block it is you. Your sin put you on the slave market, but Jesus stepped in to purchase you as His own. He raised His nail pierced hands claiming you as His child. The gavel falls, “Sold!” The price for your soul was the Son of Man shedding His blood on the cross. The love story of Hosea and Gomer is most clearly seen in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

True love is possible. Obedience to Christ is the starting point towards knowing what true love is all about. Without a relationship with Jesus Christ you will not know what true love is or how to share it with another person. The sacrificial and unconditional love of Jesus Christ is our model for true love. I am certainly glad that God did not return me when I failed Him.

quick Q&A concerning difficult relationship situations:

Since Hosea married someone who is immoral is this okay for me to do too? This question must be answered carefully. First, it is true you are both sinners and you both marry with sinful baggage. Still you must careful consider whom you marrying. It is good to ask the question: Am I willing to partner with them know what I know about them?

What if my spouse leaves me? Forgiveness and restoration are always the goal, but you cannot control the responses or actions of other people. Your faithfulness [1 Peter 3:1-6] and sacrificial love [Ephesians 5:25ff] will speak more than your words will ever utter. Marriage will be tough at times. God designed marriage to you holy, not just happy.

What if my spouse my relationship is abusive and unsafe? Get help. Call your pastor, but if you are in immediate danger call the police. Separation from your spouse for a time is appropriate they can submit to self-control. I found this message, Living with an Angry Spouse, by Ed Welch very helpful.

Additional Resources to Prepare for the Marriage Relationship:

Should We Get Married? [William Smith]

Questions to ask before you Get Engaged [Sojourn Counseling]

The Mystery of Marriage [James Hamilton Jr.]

walking in true love

Have you ever seen a blueprint? In college, I worked in the corporate office of a West Virginia coal mine. Part of my job was delivering blueprints from the engineers to the contractors. A skilled engineer draws a blueprint or builds a prototype, which shows in great detail what the design is to look like. In order for the building to look like it is intended the builders must follow the pattern laid out in the blueprint.

The prototype of walking in love is Jesus Christ [Ephesians 5:1-2]

When it comes to walking with God, Jesus is the blueprint and prototype for how you are to walk. Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” A faithful follower of Christ will imitate Christ, like a carbon copy of the original blueprint.[1]

The illustration given for imitating God is a child. Paul commands followers to “be imitators of God, as beloved children.” What can we learn from children about imitating? Children are natural imitators. Children mimic their parent’s words [what they hear] and actions [what they see]. God knows you are wired to imitate from the womb. Therefore, as a child adopted into the family of God imitate your Father [cf. 1:5; Romans 5:5].

The goal of imitating God is Christlike love, “walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.” What is your definition of God’s love? What do you learn about love from the example of Christ? Christ’s love—true love—is built on sacrifice.[2] He loves sinful people because He has a perfect, sacrificial, and unconditional love [cf. 4:32]. He became the substitute sacrifice for your sins, which is the ultimate demonstration of love. He did not do this because you deserved it; rather sin deserves is death. He loves sacrificially and freely because that is who He is.

It is impossible to imitate God in everything, but you can imitate God by walking in Christlike love. Continual conformity to Christ is the journey of a Christ follower and love is your chief mark of Christlikeness. Christlike love motivates you to live holy, which means your thinking, attitude and behavior is characterized by Christlikeness [cf. Galatians 2:20].[3]

Paul will now contrast walking in the love of Christ with walking in the way of the world [vs.3-4]. We live in a world so willing to share their love with things that do not satisfy. What do people love other than God?

The antitype of walking in love is sexual immorality [Ephesians 5:3-4]

How is walking sexual sin the opposite of walking in Christlike love? Sexual sin loves secret self-indulgence, while Christlike love is openly self-sacrificing. Sexual sin seeks to share the altar with God, but in most cases it dethrones Him from His high place. In the Ephesians 5:3-4, Paul shares how love of sexual sin takes many forms.

3 forms of physical immorality [v.3] Biblical Definition Biblical Replacement

Sexual Immorality

Any kind of sexually related sin [pornea]—pornography, masturbation, adultery, etc. [1 Corinthians 6:18; Jude 7; 1 Thessalonians 4:3]. Wait for sex until marriage [1 Corinthians 6:12-20; 7:2]; run from any sexual immorality [1 Corinthians 6:18]
Uncleanness, Impurity Moral impurity; sexual thinking; lust [Leviticus 11-12; Matthew 23:25-26; Hebrews 1:3; James 1:27; 4:8]. Purity of Heart; holiness [1 Thessalonians 4:3-8]
Covetousness Greed; inward desire to acquire what you cannot have [Luke 12:15; Matthew 6:24; 2 Peter 2:3; Colossians 3:5] Contentment [Philippians 4:12-13]; do not covet another man’s wife [Exodus 20]

All forms of physical immorality are a serious cancer to your soul. So serious they “must not even be named” among God’s people [cf. 5:12].[4] It is not that you should not talk about these sins, but you must be careful to not create an atmosphere that tolerates these sins. You cannot avoid living in a world where these sorts of sins are become less shameful and less secretive. Although they are common that does not give you an excuse to indulge. Sexual immorality is not only in a physical form, but it also can be in a verbal form:

3 forms of verbal immorality [v.4] Biblical Definition Biblical Replacement
Filthy language, obscenity Sexually degrading; obscene talk; shameless; disgraceful; dirty talk Build up and encourage one another to follow Christ [4:29; Colossians 3:5-17]. Put on thankfulness. “What comes out of your mouth or what you laugh at reveals your heart” [Matthew 15:18].
Foolish talk Stupid words; silliness; childish; moronic
Crude joking, 

course joking

Verbal immorality; vulgar; perverse; buffoonery; sexual innuendo

Verbal immorality is not just for dirty old men. Turn on your TV or listening to the Billboard Top 25 songs and you will see that dirty sexy talk sells. Dirty language is common and cheap, but it must not be the talk of followers of Christ. Sure Jesus hung out with dirty rotten sins, but He never stooped to their potty mouth language or laughed at their dirty jokes.

The remedy for immorality is thanksgiving.  How can thankfulness help remedy immorality? While immorality is self-centeredness [cf. Romans 1:21], thanksgiving is Christ-centeredness. Thanksgiving is rooted in a radically different heart, which understands it is does not deserve God’s grace. Thanksgiving—being content in Christlikeness—is the antidote for all immorality. What happens if a person continues to walk in sexual immorality?

The consequence of walking in sexual immorality is hell [Ephesians 5:5]

A person who walks in sexual immorality often describes it as living hell. Sexual sin is like working under the whip of a ruthless slave master. Walking in immorality not only feels like hell, but also it will pave your road to hell, “Everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” [v.5]

Drinking from the well of sexual sin never satisfies. The hurt and hopelessness left in the wake of sexual sin can be horrendous and handicapping. Sexual sin is like poison ivy with an all-consuming itch. The more you scratch the infected area the more you itch and the more it spreads. Sexual sin will poison you to death.

The consequences of continuing a life of immorality are serious and sobering, now [in this life] and later [in eternity]. First, those who are steeped in these sins are habitually involved as a pattern of life [cf. Hebrews 12:14]. A follower of Christ cannot walk this way for long without the Holy Spirit bringing about conviction sin and change of life. Second, immorality, impurity and greed are summed up as “Idolatry”.

How is immorality the same as worshipping a false god? Idolatry is when you love something more than God. An idol is more than a carved image; it is a God-substitute. Are you grasping onto an immoral idol? The Bible is clear—idols must be demolished.

Follower of Christ, you are called to be alive to Christ and actively loving Him. Know everyday is a battle for the mind. Your battle is between active love for the world and passive love God will come to a head—choose whom you will love. If you love the world more than Christ you have allowed the world to rob, rape and exploit your love. Think of loving the world like sleeping with the enemy. Immorality is always risky; therefore, pursue purity because it is always safe. A.W. Tozer said,

“Men think of the world not as a battleground but as a playground. We are not here to fight, we are here to frolic. We are not in a foreign land, we are at home. We are not getting ready to live, we are already living, and the best we can do is rid ourselves of our inhibitions and our frustrations and live this life to the full.”

How can I fight the temptations of sexual immorality? First, draw a line in the sand. Commit to God, “I will never put myself in situation where I will be tempted to fall into sin.” Second, put off old sinful ways and put on walking in Christlikeness. Make this your biblical battle plan. Third, maintain accountability. Keep clear guardrails and safety nets that together help you avoid your temptations. Fourth, consider the cost of your commitment to Christ. Reputation takes a lifetime to build, but a moment to destroy.

[1] Imitation is a theme in Paul’s letters: 1 Corinthians 4:16; 10:31-11:1; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9.

[2] cf. Leviticus 1:17; Isaiah 53:10; 2 Corinthians 2:15-16; Philippians 4:18.

[3] A thread about living a life of love appears a lot in Ephesians: 4:2; 15-16; 5:2. 25, 28, 33; 6:24

[4] Saints = believers, holy ones.