A Whore Like Me
Recently a group of theologians and pastors drafted an intensely controversial statement reaffirming the biblical and traditional view of marriage, and man and womanhood. They called this statement the Nashville Statement. Being in Nashville, and also having some church history chops, I knew it actually had nothing to do with Nashville.
Even so, I read it. I prayed over it. I wrestled with the finer points. I went and read as many contrary views of it as I possibly could. I read the counter statements. I wanted to absorb it, in some ways. I wanted to feel the heat and the risk and danger of both sides. To fully grok, as Heinlein might say. I wanted to understand because I have friends and acquaintances on both sides.
And here is where you’re all waiting for me to tell you my side. Feel that? That tension? That wonder of whether or not you will choose to love or hate me? Soak in that for a while.
Let’s talk about whores.
One of the single most important books in the bible, to me, is the book of Hosea. To get a broad and entirely too summarized version of the book, God calls a man named Hosea to go out and marry a whore. Prostitute. A lady who has sex with men who are not her husband for the purposes of commerce. Trading sexual services for money.
The prophets of Hosea’s day were a weird bunch. They did weird things. But to the man, they did things out of the ordinary for very specific purposes.
 When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” (ESV)
As opening lines for books of the bible go, this one is staunch. The Lord spoke to Hosea. He said, “Go,”. So you cannot remain in whatever it is you thought you were doing. This is a direction. “…take to yourself a wife of whoredom,”. Straight, no chaser. I mean, this in our day would be the equivalent of telling pastor who happens to be black to take a wife who is a card carrying member of the KKK. Does that hit you? Does that image make you sneer? Good. It should.
Imagine the burden of that man, my modern Hosea metaphor. Imagine looking at a woman who despises you, and approaching her for the purpose of bringing forth children. Children who will be a mingling of your flesh. Children who will have a mother who hates their father. Who, in some ways, hates them for what they represent to her. Do you see this? Do you feel it? A prophet wasn’t a Levitical priest, but their role was on that same playing field. They rebuked the people of God for deviating from and leaving God Himself.
They spoke for God.
Hosea obeys the Lord. He goes and takes a wife named Gomer. Gomer is a whore. For definition, go back and reread my explicit paragraph about that above. And they lived happily ever after because Gomer just loved her new life.
Narrator: They didn’t. Gomer hated her life.
Gomer left Hosea. She went from a life where she traded her body for money to a life where someone loved her and provided every single thing she needed. And that life? The second one? She hated that one. And so she goes back to whoring. She goes back to men abusing her. She goes back to it over and over. And Hosea goes back and buys her out of it, over and over.
The book of Hosea is a prophetic love letter to a lost people. A people in love with their sin. A people so deep down that rabbit hole they can’t see daylight anymore. It’s about a God who so desperately loves that people that He gives Himself in their place, to redeem them, to make them whole and holy.
In the story of Hosea, I am Gomer. I’m not Hosea. I am not the Redeemer. I am the woman who hates the one who loves her. And He is the one who relentlessly pursues me until I am His, body and soul. I keep going back after my whoredom. I keep rejecting His overtures of love and replacing them with the putrid and fallen things that are most definitely not Him or His love.
I am not a good person. I’m just not. I’m a whore. To dip into Ezekiel a little, I’m worse than a whore because I go out and pay my johns for their abuse of me. Hear that? I sacrifice things to make my life empty and disappointing. That’s sin. That’s what it does to me and in me. And still! Still! God intervenes. God comes back and dusts me off, washes me off, and forgives me.
I am a sexual sinner. As my pastor says, “We are all sexual sinners. Everyone over the age of puberty is.” I could go into detail here, but this is a rather public space. But that said, I am definitely not any better than a person who embraces sexual sin. Far from it, they might actually have sinned less than I have.
And yet, God is the God who looks at us, knows how pitiful we are, and gives Himself for us. For the sexual sinner. Hosea never says, “Gomer, your whoring is lovely and lovable.”
 And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.”  So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.  And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”  For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods.  Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days. (ESV)
This strikes me to my gut, “You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” You will be faithful to Me and I will be faithful to you.
Fidelity to God is infidelity to sin. It cannot be any other way. And now is the moment where you say, “But what’s sin?” That’s a whole other 10K word post, but suffice it to say, sin is that which deviates from God’s declared moral, ethical, and legal decree. What God calls sin, is sin. I don’t get to decide.
Remember how I said I am a sexual sinner? Well, a part of me would be much happier if adultery wasn’t a sin. Maybe that shocks you, maybe it doesn’t. I know my life would be much ‘easier’ and more ‘enjoyable’ if Jesus had never said this about lust, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
I will never get that right. Not totally. And so what do I do? I do two things and in a very specific order.
- I trust that my standing before God is decided and based on Jesus’ finished work.
- I pursue the life I will never get right as hard as I can.
Fidelity to God is what I want. I want to be faithful to Him. I can’t discard verses like this,
 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; (ESV)
So that verse right there is going to cost me. It’s going to cost me friends. It’s going to cost me jobs. It’s going to cost me book deals. It’s going to cost me so much. But whatever I lose in pursuit of that is counting Jesus and being worth more to me than whatever I lose.
Why did I spend that many words talking about Hosea and Gomer and not the Nashville Statement? Because I think those words deal directly with the Nashville Statement.
It’s not love to tell someone to continue sinning. It’s love to stand with them, against their sin. It’s not love to tell someone that being unfaithful to God is okay with God. In fact, I would argue that that’s very hateful – to them and to God. If God is actually the best part of this whole world, then whatever He prohibits is worth sacrificing. Whatever He blesses is worth losing everything else for.
I don’t want to get into the minutia of the Nashville Statement and try to parse its individual words. What I understand it to say is that it affirms the biblical definition of homosexuality, of marriage, of male and female personhood. I don’t see it as adding anything new to that or taking away anything from anyone.
Is it hateful? No. I don’t see it as being hateful. I don’t see any real emotional language whatever, honestly. It might stir emotions on both sides, but I think the authors were careful to use the flattest possible language. Is it inflammatory? Yes, I can see instantly where it is. It disagrees with the modern/liberal interpretations of the bible. It disagrees with the societal definitions of homosexuality, man and womanhood. It probably even hurts the feelings of people I care deeply about.
When I pastored, we routinely had people from the LGBTQ community in our midst. I welcomed them. I loved(love) them. I also had to teach Romans 1. And I recall one person asking in the midst of that teaching, “Well why are you saying that being straight is the right way? That God prefers that?” And I remember this “a-ha” moment because I saw, directly, the sincerity in the asker and why he was asking it. And I answered him directly:
“Your heterosexuality will not save you. God isn’t impressed that you like the opposite sex. Because your sexual sin can be in any direction, it doesn’t have to be heterosexual or homosexual.”
I say that because in our world of binary tribalism, we want to be the us against the them. We want to have our team affirm our side. But in terms of biblical theology, it’s not us vs. them; it’s us vs. Him. Whatever deviates from Him, is sin. Period. And sin can only be dealt with by turning from it, and trusting in the work of Jesus. When I don’t? When I say that my solution to sin is to change the boundaries, or move the goalposts or redefine it to make it acceptable? I am instantly trusting in my ability to save myself. I become a litigator, arguing against God.
That, frankly, terrifies me.
You may really dislike or even hate me right now. You may have a 2K word response at the ready. My intent, just like I believe the framers of the Nashville Statement’s original intent, isn’t to stir controversy or disseminate hatred.
I know writing all this may not help anyone. It may, in fact, cause people to desire to debate and argue and passionately condemn me. That’s okay. That aforementioned teaching through Romans was one of the most difficult nights of my life. I had to uphold the bible and let the chips fall where they may. (Subsequently I had to answer a number of sharply worded emails.) What I am not going to do is I am not going to hide behind a “no comment” on this. It would be easier. It might be more beneficial for me.
This is a terrible, wonderful road to walk in pursuit of Jesus. Finding people who agree with you, these days, is easy. Finding people who love you? That’s growing more and more difficult. I want to be overtly faithful, not just when put to the test. I want to declare what God declares and love everyone, as God loves them.