When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, "Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD." So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
Editor's note: PCPC member Shannon Geiger is the author of this Every Thought Captive.
I don’t know about you, but it still boggles my mind that God does what He does. When I first heard the story of Hosea as a little girl, I was confused and mostly snickered. “Why in the world would God name some woman ‘Gomer’?” The only other time I’d heard the name was when goofy Jim Nabors regularly introduced himself on The Andy Griffith Show reruns, and that association didn’t help much. When I got a little older and understood that God commanded Hosea to marry this Gomer precisely because she was a harlot, which sounded worse than being a prostitute (Don’t ask me why), I thought, “Whoa—that’s scary.”
It was all so foreign. Foreign names. Foreign ways. Prophets that are told by God to marry prostitutes as some type of living triptych of who God is and what is going to happen to His people. Hosea was bizarre, and what a relief to know that God doesn’t ask us to do anything like that today.
But as I’ve gotten older, what becomes more and more foreign to me is how God loves us. No, actually, what’s most foreign to me is how God loves me and then enables us to do the same: love like He does. We are joined together to be Christ’s body on earth, loving those who horrifically betray because we once betrayed Him and oftentimes haven’t stopped.
I think this may be part of the mystery of the crafting of our faith in this life. Do you? If you remember the old illustration: a man or woman would take out a chair, set it in front of the audience and explain Christian faith. “It’s not our faith that saves us. It’s the object of our faith that saves us.” Then they’d rest their hand on the back of the chair. “I can have all the faith in the world that this chair will hold me up. But it’s a faith that is exercised that saves us. I not only believe that this is a chair—and it is a sturdy chair that will hold me up. I have to sit and rest in this chair, proving I have faith in the chair.”
Then they would walk over and sit in the chair, lift their legs up, and the discussion could turn to how Christ is like the chair, the only one able to save. He is the only chair who can stand the test of God’s wrath. He is the only one whose blood can cleanse us from sin, etc. Buddhism is a faulty chair. Secularism is a faulty chair, Mormonism, and on it goes. And while all this is true and clarifying on many levels, what is hardest, I think, is coming to see who this Jesus is, in whose arms I truly rest. For most of the sad, boring, or lonely parts of my Christian life, I’ve let Christ’s love feel more like a wooden school chair—sturdy, real, and effectual but predictable. I know what wooden chairs look like, and I know what wooden chairs do. They’re part of the invisible furniture of my daily life.
What continues to shock me is when I look down and see that instead of whatever chair-image I’ve made Christ out to be—I rest in the arms of the living Christ, and the hands on His arms that hold me are nail-pierced. They are nail-pierced because He was betrayed. Like Hosea, Christ was gravely betrayed.
When we gather as Christians, we are to repeat this to ourselves when we take communion. Betrayal is part of our identity for Christ’s sake. “…the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “‘This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me’” (I Cor 11:23). Pick any major Bible figure or any story in the history of literature and betrayal is a major part of the plot. It’s woven into the very fabric of the universe, and we cannot escape it. If we take Christ seriously in what He says in Matthew 10:17–22, we are meant to walk straight into betrayal as His followers.
As a counselor starting out, I didn’t sit in my office for long before I was called to walk with people who agonize over the cruel realities of this. And I don’t think that calling will ever change, nor is it unique to counselors or counselees. It’s the call of all God’s children, and it will always wound. You don’t have to sit very long even here—reading this—before the pain of someone who has betrayed you creeps from your chest to your throat like a noxious cloud or you shrink back in your chair as you silently groan in the shame over those you’ve hurt and can’t offer any true repair.
Lying voices will try to tell us we don’t deserve to be betrayed—that others who’ve betrayed us don’t deserve to be forgiven. To forgive would be a sign of weakness, maybe co-dependence because we wrongly want their love back. It’s an injustice to what’s deserved, an insult to vengeance. Or maybe our wrestling isn’t, “How can I forgive them?” but it’s more, “How can they ever forgive me?”
It was the German pastor-martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said grace is never cheap, and forgiveness is what cost God the most, His Son, and we are never to forget it. For Christ, betrayal was never easy nor avoided. And it wasn’t easy or cheap for Hosea, nor will it be for us.
In his Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ calls a man, [H]e bids him, ‘Come and Die.’” After reading Hosea, might Bonhoeffer say to us, “When God calls a person, He bids him, ‘Come and Be Betrayed’”?
But we can’t kid ourselves. There is no way we can answer this call on our own, absolutely none, without Christ and His Word, His people, and His sacraments. The scriptures have always painted a graphic but clear picture for us: one way or another, we will be called to intimately love those who betray us. And it will wound. And foreigners like Hosea and Bonhoeffer become pricelessly familiar and needed friends.