I started following Jesus the fall of my freshman year of college, but a large part of my heart at the time was latched onto my boyfriend, whom I loved deeply. My boyfriend didn’t go to my school, but every second I was not in class, I was talking to him, wanting to be with him, and planning to go see him. The night I cried out in desperation to God for my salvation, I thought I was pregnant. I could see the future that I hoped for crumbling around me. Looking back, I know that if I had been pregnant, all would have worked out for good, because that is God’s loving long view, but when I finally got my period, I felt rescued and convicted: Thank you for saving me, Lord, and, We should stop having sex.
Again and again I determined to stop being intimate with my boyfriend, but we truly loved each other, and temptations (and hormones) were strong between us, so again and again, I failed to resist.
It was during this time that someone recommended to me the book, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I was completely taken by the story, and I’ve read it at least twice, if not three times, since. Based on the book of Hosea in the Bible, Redeeming Love was the first exposure I had to the relentless, everlasting, forgiving, grace-full love of God made so poignantly clear in story form. Even though I had not been so devastated or abused by men, I could relate to the way Angel kept turning away from the source of all love and to return to other lovers.
Over 20 years later, there is now a film adaptation of Redeeming Love, and the story still overwhelms me.
Redeeming Love: What to Expect
If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend reading it first, but if you aren’t the reading type, the movie follows the book’s storyline closely. The movie begins with Sarah (who goes by Angel most of the movie) as a child, the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy man who, although estranged from his daughter, still provides for his mistress and child. He is a cold-hearted man, though, and when things turn sour between him and Angel’s mother, he kicks the two of them out of the house he had provided for them. After resorting to prostitution in order to try to make ends meet for her and her daughter, Angel’s mother becomes ill and dies, leaving Angel orphaned in New England. As a young girl, probably eight or nine years old, she is sold into the “care” of Duke, who manages a brothel and takes interest in young girls, in the very worst way imaginable.
It is from this shattered past that Angel emerges, eventually escaping Duke’s house, fleeing to San Francisco, where she enters into another house of prostitution with the ambition to earn her way into a life of independence. The Gold Rush brings a rough crowd of hopeful men out west, who all seem to want to have their way with the Angel in the whore house.
Until Michael Hosea arrives in town. Michael is a man of God who feels called by God to marry Angel, despite her past (and present), and proceeds to try to woo her from her life as a prostitute.
There’s violence, sex, and hard truths about the shadowy side of the world portrayed in the film, and in it all the love of Christ shines through.
Finding the Love: Faithifying Your Viewing
Being a Christian film that is based on the book of Hosea, it is easy to find the love of Christ in Redeeming Love. I was reminded again of the truth Paul shared in his letter to the Romans, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 NIV).
There is nothing that can separate us from God’s love, not even fleeing God’s love for the familiar slavery of our past life, not even the wounds of a shattered childhood, not even the blemishes and scars and labels the world slaps on us when we’ve been driven into desperation, nothing in all of creation can separate us from God’s love.
God’s love was there for me when I was sleeping with my boyfriend, and God’s love was there for me when we broke up, when I was broken hearted, when I was longing for another love, when I met another man, and when we made mistakes. When marriage didn’t solve all of our past sexual hurts, God’s love was there, too, redeeming every broken road, making a new thing grow from the desert of our pasts (Isaiah 43:19 NIV).
God’s love sets us free, and in that freedom, we can choose to leave him or choose to walk with him, but no matter what, no matter where we go or where we turn, he will keep pursuing us. He might turn us over to the desires of our hearts so that we can experience the bad fruits of those dark idols, but it is only for a time, it is only so we can see in contrast the better, more beautiful, more love-filled way.
The prophet Hosea records what God revealed to him about this love. Hosea’s call from God to marry a prostitute named Gomer is a metaphor for God’s love for Israel, but it was also his reality, his life. It is by extension a metaphor for God’s love for each of us, all of us, and it is also true for our reality, our lives. Here is part of that beautiful story in Hosea:
“Therefore I am now going to allure her;Hosea 2:14-23 NIV
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
“In that day,” declares the Lord,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.’
I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips;
no longer will their names be invoked.
In that day I will make a covenant for them
with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the creatures that move along the ground.
Bow and sword and battle
I will abolish from the land,
so that all may lie down in safety.
I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the Lord.
“In that day I will respond,”
declares the Lord—
“I will respond to the skies,
and they will respond to the earth;
and the earth will respond to the grain,
the new wine and the olive oil,
and they will respond to Jezreel.
I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”