What I Learned From Francine Rivers

Human trafficking. I’ve interviewed people who have been forced into prostitution. I’ve worked with ministries who work hard to get girls off the streets. But it wasn’t until I read Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love that I finally felt a deeper sense of compassion for those caught up in modern day slavery.

Here I am, a man who hasn’t read a romance novel in his life, let alone a Christian romance novel. Instead, you might see me reading a David Baldacci mystery novel or a biography of Winston Churchill in my leisure time.

But I kept hearing from women in my office and others who I’ve met repeatedly say how much they love, and were moved by, Redeeming Love. That’s also around the time I walked in a Barnes & Noble and noticed a long shelf of books devoted to Francine Rivers.

Finally, I decided to read it and realized this isn’t your run-of-the-mill fiction. This is powerful! And then I had to ask the question, have I been hiding under a rock this whole time?

Published in in 1991, Redeeming Love was the breakout spiritual novel of the newly converted Francine Rivers.

Before that, she was making a name for herself writing steamy romance novels; you know the kind you see with the chiseled, shirtless men on the cover at Walmart and yard sales.

One day the Holy Spirit worked through an 8-year-old kid who knocked on Francine’s door and invited her to church. Francine said yes, and it completely launched a new career.

A new Christian, Francine was inspired by the tale of Hosea and Gomer to write a novel that delved into what a relationship like that would truly look like.

When she showed her New York editor the manuscript, she kept telling her to take out all the “God stuff” and it would sell more copies. Francine said no, and so they published it, “God stuff” and all. It’s been a hit ever since.

So, now, here I am, a man reading a Christian romance novel! I never thought I’d see the day, but I’m so glad I opened the pages of this amazing book.

With Redeeming Love, the beginning is the hardest part. The reader is introduced to Sarah, an adorable little girl who wants to be like her mama while trying to make her estranged father happy. The problem is, her father is married to another woman. Sarah’s mother? A prostitute.

This begins young Sarah on a short and downward journey of following in her mother’s footsteps. By the time she turns 18, her name is Angel and life outside of prostitution is one she could never fathom.

This isn’t just a retelling of the book of Hosea. It’s also a way to open the casual reader’s eyes to the horrors of human trafficking. Francine doesn’t shy away from the difficult subject matter, but she’s not explicit either. She doesn’t have to be.

Angel is a girl who desperately needs love. For the reader, we think she needs a strong man who will give her the love she deserves, but even that proves unsubstantial. What Angel really needs is the love of Christ.

If you’ve read this story in the Old Testament, you know that Gomer is a prostitute who God commanded Hosea to marry. Their relationship was symbolic of God’s relationship with His people. And just as the Israelites ran from Him in pursuit of other gods, so did Gomer. Except she ran back into her life of prostitution. Not once, not twice, but many times.

Doesn’t that sound like our lives? Constantly, our flesh drives us back to sin and away from the One who saves us and draws us back to Himself. The good news is that Jesus keeps calling us home, granting us the forgiveness we don’t deserve.

The book of Hosea is a heart-wrenching story in Scripture that becomes ever more real when you see Angel run away from the hero of the story, Michael Hosea (intentional naming), over and over again.

Ultimately, it’s a story of love that won’t let go. God pursues His people, no matter how far we’ve run from Him, and continues to show us His unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love.

About the Author

As the leader of the Haven Ministries, Charles Morris is always thinking of ways to lead Christians and non-Christians to Christ—hence the familiar slogan, “Telling the great story … it’s all about Jesus.” Charles is a former secular journalist, who has worked for United Press International, and as a press secretary for two former U.S. senators. He began working in the Christian world after seminary, becoming the fourth speaker of Haven in 2000. He and his wife, Janet, have written several books, including Missing Jesus.

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