Formations 07.05.2020: For Better, For Worse…

Hosea 1

A 2019 study at the University of Texas at Austin confirmed what many people have no doubt long suspected: People who cheat on their spouses are likely to be untrustworthy in other areas of life. Researchers looked at the records of over 11,000 individuals who used the Ashley Madison dating site for married people looking for “discreet encounters.” The study concluded that users of the web site were more than twice as likely to engage in workplace misconduct.

Samuel Kruger, one of the researchers, says, “This is the first study that’s been able to look at whether there is a correlation between personal infidelity and professional conduct. We find a strong correlation, which tells us that infidelity is informative about expected professional conduct.” The correlation holds even when controlling for age, gender, and a range of executive and cultural variables.

The findings suggest that behavior in a one’s personal and professional lives are strongly connected and that eliminating sexual misconduct in the workplace could also contribute more generally to fostering an ethical corporate culture.

Marital infidelity can warn of other forms of misbehavior. In the book of Hosea, it also serves as a metaphor for Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. In chapter 1, the drama of Hosea’s personal life parallels Israel’s spiritual situation. The nation’s pursuit of other gods is compared to the unfaithfulness of an adulterous spouse. The point is driven home in the symbolic names he gives to his children, each of which speaks in some way about Israel’s coming judgment.

Hosea seems to be the first to use the biblical metaphor of the divine-human relationship as a marriage. Here, in one of the earliest portions of the Bible, the relationship is on the rocks, and Israel is compared to an unfaithful wife. Later, both Christian and Jewish interpreters read the Song of Songs as an idealized picture of what that relationship could be. In the New Testament, the metaphor shifts to the church as the bride of Christ (Eph 5:25; Rev 21:2).

It’s easy to push the metaphor too far. When we read these texts through the lens of culture-bound attitudes toward marriage or gender, we’re bound to discover “truths” that the original authors never intended to teach. Within its own contexts, however, it opens an important window into the story of God’s relationship with God’s people.

University of Texas at Austin, “Marital Infidelity and Professional Misconduct Linked, Study Shows,” Science Daily, 30 July 2019 <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190730182434.htm>.

Discussion

• Are you surprised at the findings of this study? Why or why not?
• Would you knowingly do business with an unrepentant adulterer? Explain.
• How does the metaphor of marital intimacy frame the divine-human relationship?
• All metaphors and analogies are imperfect. What are some inappropriate conclusions people might draw from the comparison of Israel to an unfaithful spouse?
• What do you think spiritual unfaithfulness is like from God’s point of view? How does this shed light on the metaphors used in Hosea 1?
• What does a healthy relationship with God look like?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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