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What is love? Much ink has been spilt trying to answer that question. Aristotle said, “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” Augustine wrote, “Love is the beauty of the soul.” In A Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare wrote, “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind” Voltaire said, “Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination.” Friedrich Nietzsche said, “There is always some madness in love.” Sigmund Freud said, “Love is a state of temporary psychosis” Victor Hugo said, “Life is the flower for which love is the honey.”  

In more recent times, John Lennon sang, “Love is a flower you got to let it, you gotta let it grow.” Together The Beatles sang, “Love is all you need.” A novel titled Love Story popularized the catchphrase, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” That’s hogwash, by the way. Culture Club and frontman Boy George sang, “love is love” creating a catchphrase for the entire gay rights movement. Not to be outdone was LeAnn Rimes who sang “love is love is love.” Pat Benatar sang, “Love is a battlefield.” The British rock band Flyte says “love is an accident.” The Scottish band CHVRCHΞS sings “love is dead.” And of course, there’s Prince Hans of the Southern Isles and Princess Ana of Arendelle who together sing, “love is an open door”  

With all these different takes on love, it’s no wonder Haddaway sang, “What is love? Baby don’t hurt me no more.” Whatever else people may say about love, it is treated as the ultimate good in our culture. All you have to do is say call something “love” and no other defense is necessary. Just say “love made me do it” and no further explanation is required. In all this we seem to have turned the Bible on its head. Scriptures says, “God is love.” We say, “love is god.”  

The book of Hosea provides a beautiful picture of the nature of love. In this book we meet a prophet who loves a prostitute. No it’s not a scandal, at least not in the way you might initially think. He loves her not to satisfy his own lustful pleasures, but because he has covenanted to love her in marriage. Even when she returns to her trade and her former lovers. Even when she is continually unfaithful. Even when she sells herself into some form of slavery. Hosea loves her because he loves her. And in that love, he pays to redeem his wayward bride and guides her towards genuine repentance and commitment to him.  

But even more beautiful the picture of love we see in the book of Hosea, is the ultimate love story to which it points. God’s people are prone to wander. And that wandering isn’t a mere peccadillo, but spiritual adultery. We have pained and angered a holy God. But in His love He sends His Son to redeem His people (John 3:16). Like Hosea, God’s Son would pay a price to rescue His adulterous people. But this would be more than the price to redeem a slave. It would be the price of His very own life.  

1 John 4:9-10—In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.