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By Pastor Ron Thomas
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
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“What Would You Do?” The Relationship Challenge

Preached 2/22/2009

Text: James 5:16-18. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Text: Hosea.

Introduction: What would you do if you were at a local public playground with your child or grandchild, and you saw a strange man approach an unattended child, seeking to lure that child away, under the pretense of finding his lost dog? Would you intervene on behalf of that child by engaging the stranger or calling 911? Or would you consider it none of your business, and walk away?

What if while you were out doing some shopping at Firewheel Mall on a hot summer day, you observed a young mother leave her baby behind in her car, unattended, strapped in a car seat, to enter a store to shop? What would you do? Would you get involved, or tell yourself it wasn’t your problem?

When faced with an ethical dilemma, do people always do the right thing? When people see a situation that cries out for action, do they step in, or just walk by? ABC’s “Primetime” is hosting an interesting series entitled: “What Would You Do?” Using hidden cameras, they set up various scenarios that challenge people to either get involved, or mind their own business. We often speculate as to what we would do given a certain situation, but the camera’s lens shows how we often react in the face of everyday dilemmas that reveal our character and values.

This is a good question for all of us to ask ourselves, “What would I do?” when it comes to responding as God would have you respond in difficult relationship situations. Let’s confess, as Christians, most of our everyday “What to do?” situations, have to do with relationships. We often blunder and fail in how we respond to people, particularly the people nearest and dearest to us. As believers we are often convicted by our relationship failures, because as the recipients of God’s great love in Jesus Christ, we realize that we have been called to a higher standard of behavior when it comes to loving people.

Recently, there was an article in the Dallas Morning News by James Ragland entitled, “We Seem To Take Delight In Other’s Woes.” James begins by writing, “A part of us should ache when we see another person stumble and fall. Something innately human ought to stir our mortal souls to the point where we can’t help but cry out: ‘Brother, sister, are you OK?’ Our society, as blessed and enlightened as any that has come before it, seems to find squeamish pleasure in an age old “rub it in” ritual: Stomping and spitting on a man when he’s down.” James Ragland goes on in the article to make his point by giving several examples such as, Michael Phelps getting caught with a bong; Ted Haggard, a televangelist who now admits to soliciting drugs and sex from a male prostitute, and the ex-mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick, who was recently caught in a sex and text-messaging scandal. In each situation, bricks have been hurled, and protest voiced against anyone who would dare show them compassion, or lend a hand to help them up!

James Ragland then turned his attention to the embarrassing situation involving Bishop T.D. Jakes, who shepherds the 30,000 member Potter’s House. His grown son, Jermaine Jakes was arrested at a Dallas park in January on a charge of exposing himself in front of an undercover vice detective. Immediately the comments started flying. “Perhaps instead of trying to save the world, T.D. Jakes should spend more time trying to save his son.” Others scoffed, “The bright side is that with a mega-church, Jakes should have enough money to buy his son out of this mess.” James goes on to point out that Jamaine is 29 years old, (not a child at home) and is only one of five Jake’s children. James comments, “Hearing the uproar, you would think it was the pastor himself who was caught in this behavior. This is the pastor that preaches compassion week in and week out.”

What did the pastor, father, T.D. Jakes say and do in response to this difficult situation involving his son? What would you do? For a moment, put yourself in his place. In a written statement provided to The Dallas Morning News, Bishop T.D. Jakes offered this, “As parents, we occasionally feel that our children do not live up to our highest and best ideals. When they do not, we don’t diminish our love for them as recompense for our disapproval. Like our children, we also are not infallible nor do we profess to be. Our now adult son Jermaine is 29, but when he was at home he was a recipient of correction, compassion and wise counsel. We hope that the light of what we believe will guide him through times of contradiction and moments of concern as he continues to mature.

In spite of the family pain we feel from this unfortunate situation, it has given us a chance to show him the same help, support, and restorative grace for which our family and church is noted. Through our ministry at The Potter’s House, as well as our own home, we have for years offered help in the time of need to all adults, our five children, and other people’s children.” He went on to say, “It is in moments like these that I am so grateful that we do not preach that we are the solution, but we look to Christ for resolution. So then, as a very human family with real issues, like many other people, we will draw from the same well of grace to which we have led others to drink and be refreshed.”

We now know what Bishop Jakes did, but now the question is, “How do I do it?” Perhaps the answer comes from a particular “What would you do?” scenario in the Bible. It has to do with relationships.

Our story is found in the Old Testament book of Hosea. The setting is the time of the divided kingdom of Israel, about seven hundred and sixty years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The northern kingdom of Israel was enjoying a period of unprecedented prosperity. As is often the case, with prosperity came moral laxity and spiritual degeneration. Secularism and materialism captured the hearts of the people, and sin ran rampant. The list of Israel’s sins reads like twenty first century America. The people were characterized by swearing, lying, killing, stealing, adultery, drunkenness, all sorts of perversion, perjury, deceit, and oppression. Since the Lord viewed Israel as His wife, He viewed her worship of other gods as spiritual adultery. God had a message Israel needed to hear. He first chose a prophet named Amos, the herdsman of Tekoa. Amos thundered God’s warning of imminent judgment, but the nation paid little attention. God being longsuffering, attempted to communicate again with this spiritually adulterous nation. This time, He chose the prophet Hosea, whose name meant “Jehovah is salvation.”

In Hosea 1:2, God comes to his prophet, and instructs Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry, and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord.” It is here Bible students are divided. Some believe Hosea was to marry a woman who had a history of prostitution, while others think he was to take a woman from the spiritually depraved culture of the northern kingdom of Israel. In either case, it is obvious that she was a woman who had been deeply affected by the moral laxity of her society. The woman Hosea chose as his wife was named Gomer.

The early days of their marriage were no doubt beautiful as their love began to blossom. Soon God blessed their union with a son. Hosea was convinced that his marriage would be better than ever with this little one to brighten their home. God however named the baby Jezreel, a name that hinted of a showdown in the future. After the birth of Jezreel, there was a change in Gomer. She became restless and unhappy, like a bird trapped in a cage. Hosea went on about his ministry, preaching and warning the nation to turn from it’s sin and trust in God. But Gomer seemed less and less interested in her husband’s ministry. In fact, she may have grown to resent it. She probably even accused Hosea of thinking more about his preaching than he did of her. She began to find other interests to occupy herself, and spent more and more time away from home. Gomer did not share her husband’s love for God.

Gomer’s absences from home probably grew more frequent. Hosea’s heart began to be troubled by fear and suspicion of his wife’s unfaithfulness to him. Hosea preached with a heavy heart during the day, and lay awake at night, wrestling with his fears. His suspicions were confirmed when Gomer became pregnant again. It was a girl this time, and Hosea was convinced that the child was not his. At God’s direction, he named her Loruhamah , which means unpitied or unloved, implying that she would not enjoy her true father’s love. No sooner had little Loruhamah been weaned, than Gomer conceived again. It was another boy. God told Hosea to call him Lo-ammi, which meant not my people, or no kin of mine. Now it was clear! The child born in Hosea’s house was not his! Everyone knew about Gomer’s affairs. Without doubt, all of Hosea’s friends were telling him to give it up! He should finally rid himself of this grievous, one-sided relationship!

What followed is a long nightmare of a relationship. It is portrayed in Hosea 2, as we are made to see God’s relationship with His rebellious wife, Israel. The entire chapter describes Jehovah’s relationship with his unfaithful wife Israel, but we cannot help but believe it mirrors Hosea’s troubled relationship with his adulterous wife Gomer. In Hosea 2:2, Hosea pleaded with her. In verse 3, he threatened to disinherit her. In verse 5, Hosea attempted to stop her on occasion, but she continued to seek her lovers. In verse 7, Hosea would take her back in loving forgiveness, only to be crushed again by her lies and unfaithfulness.

Eventually Hosea received word that it was over. Gomer would not be coming back! She had found her true love. Hosea was crushed. He loved Gomer deeply in spite of all the abuse. Time passed, and then, one day news came that Gomer had been deserted by her so called “true love,” and had sold herself into slavery. Gomer had finally hit the bottom!

What would you do if you were Hosea? Surely now Hosea would forget her! Not so! Hosea’s heart could not give her up. Hosea wanted to see Gomer restored to his side as his wife. He believed that God was great enough to do it. He began his search, driven by that indestructible divine love, love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love that never ends and never lets go. Hosea found Gomer standing on a slave market auction block. Once beautiful, she stood there ragged, torn, sick, dirty and destitute. The woman whose appearance once turned so many heads, now turned stomachs. How could anyone love her now? What man in his right mind would want her? Hosea loved Gomer, and bought her back from slavery. Hosea told his wife, “You are mine forever! We’re going home!”

While we do not find anything else in Scripture about their relationship with each other, we assume that God used Hosea’s supreme act of forgiving love to melt Gomer’s heart and change her life.

God did with His prophet Hosea, as He did with so many of His prophets. God used the life and marriage of Hosea and Gomer, to teach a nation of His unending, redeeming love.

How do you love and forgive like that? It’s one thing to float down the aisle with stars in your eyes and say, “I do” and “I will.” It’s another thing to hit the bottom in a relationship, and continue to say “I do” or “I will,” when everything inside is screaming, “I won’t!”

Hosea is not the real hero in our story. God is the real hero! You need God’s help! You see it was God in Hosea 3:1 who told Hosea, “Go love your wife again! Go to her although she is loved by another and is unfaithful. Go because in your actions, I want to show my people how much I love them, even though they are unfaithful to me.” It was only by God’s help and God’s love that Hosea could go redeem his wife, forgive her, and bring her back home as his bride. It was only by God’s help and God’s love that Gomer could forgive herself, learn what true love is all about, and return home and remain content to live with and love her husband.

You see, Hosea's relationship with Gomer is a mirror of our relationship with God. The forgiveness that Hosea offered Gomer, represents the forgiveness God offers us for our sins against Him. We are not always faithful to God, but He loves us anyway. We do not deserve His forgiveness, but He forgives us anyway. God knew before we were created that we would betray Him, but He created us anyway.

In the New Testament, there is recorded another “What would you do?” scenario that parallels the Hosea story. In John 8, we find a story involving a woman caught in the act of adultery. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought her to Jesus, and threw her at His feet like baggage! They proceeded to inform Jesus that the Law of Moses demanded that she be stoned to death! Then they asked Jesus, “What will you do?” Just like ABC’s Primetime’s series, it was a set up to expose the attitudes and actions of Jesus. They thought they had Him, but it was then Jesus stooped to write on the ground. No one knows what Jesus wrote that day. When He had finished writing, Jesus simply said, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." When that scene played out in Biblical history, Jesus was the only person who could have picked up a stone and thrown it at this woman, ...but He didn't! Why? Jesus had a better thing in mind. It’s called reconciliation! Knowing her repentant heart, Jesus forgave her, much like Hosea forgave Gomer!

I will never forget asking my father-in-law on the occasion of his fiftieth wedding anniversary,”What is the secret to success in a marriage relationship?” He simply responded, “A lot of forgiveness.”

Who is it that you need to forgive today? The Lord is sufficient to bring that person to your mind today. It could be a spouse, child, sibling, friend, co-worker, or church member.

How often are you supposed to forgive someone? What about repeated offenses? Peter asked that question of Jesus in Matthew 18. Peter thought seven should be more than enough. Jesus answered in verse 21, “Seventy times seven!”

If we keep forgiving someone over and over again regardless, doesn’t that simply prolong a bad situation and expose us for more hurt? Forgiving doesn’t justify or sanction bad behavior. It doesn’t mean that we suffer in silence. We must communicate what went wrong in the relationship, how it made us feel, and how we can make sure it never happens again.

If we forgive someone and continue to revisit the offence in our hearts and minds, bringing back all the pain and hurt, does it mean that we haven’t truly forgiven? Not necessarily. Some wounds are deep and take longer to heal. It is inevitable that these things will surface again, but when they do, we must do our spiritual work, keeping our hearts, casting down thoughts that stir up feelings of anger.

Hosea paid a price to redeem his unfaithful wife, which teaches us that forgiving someone costs. When we forgive someone, we are setting them free from any sense of debt to us. We refuse to retaliate or make the guilty person pay. We absolve that person of all guilt!

How do you do this? The answer is seeing in this powerful story, God’s love for you and being secure in it! We were Gomer, disobedient, wicked, unfaithful, running away from God time and time again. Yet God searched for us, found us, redeemed us, forgave us, and adopted us into His own family!

Experiencing this amazing love is one thing, but sharing it is another. On ABC’s “Primetime,” special “What Would You Do?”, the people and their actions were filmed for the whole world to see! Similar situations play out in your life everyday. The Bible often refers to them as “tests and trials of your faith.” In these private moments, “What Will You Do?”

1. Will you treat someone badly because they didn’t treat you just right or meet your expectations?

2. Will you ignore the needs of others because you think they don’t deserve help?

3. Will you be indifferent and unforgiving and live in a self centered world?

Child of God, the film is rolling, but your Partner is with you. The Lord of grace and love will help you to do the right things, if you will be secure in His love. Commit to love others God’s way!

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