The book of Hosea describes a man instructed by God to marry a prostitute. She is unfaithful to him multiple times, and multiple times he goes after her and brings her back. Back to his home, his bed, and his love.
The language used in the account is often quite forceful. Hosea has to pry his wife from the arms of her other lovers, depriving her of the ornaments and silken robes they had dressed her in.
To our culture this sounds absolutely unacceptable – a foul, overbearing imposition of the will of a man over that of a woman. Why shouldn’t she be free to do as she chooses? How dare he keep her at home against her will?
Yet it is a parable of God’s love for his people. We keep wandering away, lured by pretty baubles and sparkly lights, but God keeps coming out to find us and bringing us back.
Is this unacceptable and overbearing? To many people it seems so. How dare God presume to tell us what’s best for us? What right does he have to bring us back into his fold? How can he restrict our freedoms like this?
Yet true love – sacrificial, servant-hearted, other-centered love – is the most freeing relationship in the world. It is the place in which we are freed, supported and enabled to flourish.
It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s the song our culture needs to hear. The statistics keep piling up that show that children raised in a stable home with two married parents do far better physically, mentally and emotionally than children in any other kind of household. Married people live longer and are healthier than single ones.
Marriage can be hard, and there are occasions in which, for the safety of one or other partner or the children it is best for it to end, but for the most part, the things about it which look like prison walls turn out to be castle ramparts, and those inside are not held captive, but kept safe.