As Christians, love is the basis of our whole identity. Our spiritual rebirth came about because “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
When asked to clarify what the greatest commandments of all were, Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … your soul … your strength … your mind … and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).
Our love for each other is supposed to be how people distinguish us as Christ’s disciples (John 13:35). It is the root and ground of our existence (Ephesians 3:17), meant to be expressed with passion and fervency (1 Peter 4:8). It is a quality that we are to “abound” in more and more (1 Thessalonians 3:12), always getting better at it, becoming increasingly defined by it.
So if love is what we were created to share, what do you do when your love is rejected? How do you handle it when the one to whom you’ve pledged your life stops accepting the love you’re called to give?
The account of prophet Hosea is one of the most remarkable in the Bible. Against all logic and propriety, God instructed him to marry a prostitute. He wanted Hosea’s marriage to show what Heaven’s unconditional love looks like towards us. Hosea’s union with Gomer produced three children but, as expected, this woman who had long made her living in immorality was not content to stay faithful to one man. So Hosea was left to deal with a broken heart and the shame of abandonment.
He had loved her, but she had spurned his love. They had grown close, but now she had been disloyal and adulterous, rejecting him for the lust of total strangers.
Time passed, and God spoke to Hosea again. God told him to go and reaffirm his love for this woman who had been repeatedly unfaithful. This time she had reached a new low and had to be bought off the slave block, but Hosea paid the price for her redemption and bought her home. Yes, she had treated his love with contempt. She had dealt treacherously with his heart. But he welcomed her back into his life, expressing an unconditional love.
This is a true story, but it was used as a picture of God’s love for us. He showers His favor on us without measure, though in return we often don’t pay attention. At times we have acted shamefully and deemed His love an intrusion, as if it’s keeping us from what we really want. We have rejected Him in many ways – even after receiving His gift of eternal salvation – and yet He still loves us. He still remains faithful.
Even so, His love doesn’t keep Him from calling us to account for our mistreatment of Him. We pay more of a price for our rejection than we often realize. Yet He still chooses to respond with grace and mercy. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). In Him we have the model of what rejected love does. It stays faithful.
Jesus called us to this kind of love in the passage known as the Sermon on the Mount. He said to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same” (Luke 6:32-33).
“Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35).
From the vantage point of the wedding altar, you would never have dreamed that the person you married might later become to you a kind of “enemy,” one you would need to love as an act of almost total sacrifice. And yet far too often in marriage, the relationship does indeed dwindle down to that level. Even to the point of betrayal or, sadly, to unfaithfulness.
For many, this is the beginning of the end. Some respond by rapidly moving toward a tragic divorce. Others, more protective of their reputation than even their own happiness, decide to keep the charade going. But they have no intention of liking it–much less of loving each other again.
This is not the model, however for the follower of Christ. If love is to be like His, it must love even when its overtures are returned unwanted. And for your love to be like that, it must be His love to begin with.
You can give undeserved love to your spouse because God gave undeserved love to you–repeatedly, enduringly. Love is often expressed the most to those who deserve it the least.
Ask Him to fill you with the kind of love only He can provide, then purpose to give it to your mate in a way that reflects your gratefulness to God for loving you. That’s the beauty of redeeming love. That’s the power of faithfulness.
I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord. – Hosea 2:20
Love is a choice, not a feeling. It is an initiated action, not a knee-jerk reaction. Choose today to be committed to love even if your spouse has lost most of their interest in receiving it. Say to them today in words similar to these, “I love you. Period. I choose to love you even if you don’t love me in return.”