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“Does God still love me?” Have you ever heard anyone ask that question? Have you perhaps asked it yourself? The premise that lies behind that question is that love is, in some way, a response to loveliness: God loves us when we are lovable, but perhaps not when we are unlovable. It betrays a grave lack of understanding of divine love in which God loves us despite our unloveliness.

Hosea 3 drives home the point that no one has ever earned God’s love. His love is always lavished freely on the undeserving. Our sin may interrupt his blessings but his lavish love is never snuffed out by our unfaithful actions. And he is always deeply committed to restoring his relationship with those whom he loves.

Hosea 3 is the shortest chapter in the book. As in chapter 1, Hosea’s relationship with Gomer serves as an illustration of Yahweh’s relationship with his people. (Though Gomer is not here mentioned by name, the continuity of the story only makes sense of the “woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress” is Gomer.) The chapter shows at the same time the restoration of Gomer to Hosea and promises the restoration of Israel to Yahweh.

Israel’s restoration is emphasised in two ways. First, it is emphasised as a restoration of the nation to “the LORD their God” and, second, as a restoration of the nation to “David their king” (v. 5). Israel—the northern kingdom—had rejected David as their king nearly two hundred years prior to this event and had long persisted in rejecting Yahweh’s laws. Israel had fallen into gross idolatry, but Yahweh was determined to restore his relationship to his people.

Hosea’s marriage served as an illustration of God’s radical love. Yahweh had commanded him to take a wife of whoredom (v. 2). Unsurprisingly, perhaps, she had some time later returned to her whoring lifestyle. She had left Hosea and found another man. Adultery is the deepest form of human betrayal, which many marriages do not survive. But God commanded Hosea to reach out to Gomer to restore the relationship. He was to show radical, restoring love as an illustration of Yahweh’s radical, restoring love for his people.

When we understand the radical nature of God’s restoring love, it puts into fresh perspective the “new command” that Jesus gave to his disciples: “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). Our love for one another should be just as radical and restorative as God’s love for us. We can highlight at least two complementary characteristics of such love.

First, restoring love is overlooking love. “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). In our sinfulness, we tend to hold onto things. We do not easily forget the wrongs that others have done to us. We like to remind others when we were right and they were wrong and take any opportunity to do so. We may do so with a blatant “I told you so” or more subtly by, in a roundabout way, reminding them that we had warned them about the consequences of their choices. Either way, we have failed to act from a paradigm of love.

When Peter said that “love covers a multitude of sins” he was not saying that love ignores serious sin that must be dealt with. He was saying that there are some offences that are sufficiently inconsequential that they can be overlooked. Sometimes, for the sake of the relationship, it is better to overlook an offence rather than push it to a full resolution. Sometimes, it is better to come alongside someone and help them out of the trouble they have gotten themselves into rather than pressing home the reminder that you saw it coming and warned them about it.

Second, restoring love is forgiving love. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Some offences must be confronted; they cannot be avoided. While the text doesn’t specifically talk about forgiveness, the magnitude of Gomer’s sin demanded that there be repentance and forgiveness. Sometimes, restoration is impossible apart from confession of sin. But when sin is confessed, restoring love is quick to forgive and slow to hold grudges.

The goal of such love, of course, is restoration. If there is no restoration of relationship, we have not loved as Christ loved us. God was ferociously committed to restoring his relationship with Israel. We should be equally ferocious in displaying such restoring love to one another.

As you meditate on Hosea 3 this morning, ask God to show you where you need to display restoring love. Are there offences you need to overlook? Are there sins you need to forgive? As the Spirit prompts you, love one another, as Christ loved you.