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The Bible speaks not only of ardent love between men and women, but it presents God himself as a lover and his courting of creation as the Great Romance.

The symbol seems a strange one, considering the Christian reluctance to embrace romantic love. Yet it is distinct throughout Scripture. God desires Israel for his bride: "For, as a young man weds a maiden, so you shall wed him who rebuilds you" (Isa. 62:5; all quotations from the NEB). He fondly recalls the days of harmony, "the love of your bridal days, when you followed me in the wilderness" (Jer. 2:2). Yet Israel is unfaithful—God is the unrequited lover. "Will a girl forget her finery or a bride her ribbons? Yet my people have forgotten me over and over again. How well you pick your way in search of lovers!" (Jer. 2:32). God is a passionate lover, and passion can fuel anger. Like the country singer who wonders, "if I saw you, would I kiss you or want to kill you on sight?" God storms at his lover for her prostitution.

After all, he rescued her as a newborn baby lying in her own blood, raised her to full womanhood, gave her fine clothes and jewelry, provided for her the best of foods, and presented her with sons and daughters (Ezek. 16:114). In return, she imperviously fornicates. "How you anger me!" shouts God (Ezek. 16:30). He threatens to turn her over to her many lovers, to strip her naked before them. The lovers will rob her jewelry, stone her, and hack her to pieces (Ezek. 16:39-40).

Which is it, then, kiss or kill?

Wait, for God is the perfect lover. He vents his anger, then whispers: "But now listen, I will woo her, I will go with her into the wilderness and comfort her" (Hos. 2:14). He follows her through fires, floods, dark woods, wherever she goes, then ...

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