I recently watched the movie called Redeeming Love with my wife. First off, I know the sex scenes in this movie have many people divided over whether or not Christians should even see this movie. And most of the reviews of this movie have focused on that question. That’s not going to be the focus of my review. Rather, I want to talk about some things I learned about women after watching this movie.
With that said, this movie did have a lot more graphic sex scenes that I thought it would for only being PG-13 and for being based on a Christian book. So if you do decide to watch this movie, make sure you have your remote control handy so you can quickly fast-forward the graphic parts like my wife and I did.
I wanted to watch this movie because about 10 years ago, I remember my wife and her friends read the book Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. They all loved it. They kept talking about how much they loved the male main character Michael Hosea. So I’ve always wondered what all the fuss was about. What did Francine Rivers capture in this book that so moved the heart of women?
The book has sold over 3 million copies since its release in 1991. And its obviously mostly women reading this book. I know some women don’t like this book, but clearly it’s touched on something core in some women’s hearts. I wanted to know what desires this book was hitting in women to make them love it so much.
I must say, after watching the movie, I was pretty surprised. This story was not at all what I thought it would be like. It was not your typical love story, so it really made me think and reexamine my understanding about what women want in a relationship.
So in this article, I’m going to talk about 5 things I learned about women after watching the movie, Redeeming Love.
1. Women Want a Man Who Loves Them Unconditionally, But These Men Don’t Exist
If you haven’t read this book or watched this movie, beware that I will be giving away spoilers. In summary, the main female character is named Angel. She was abandoned at a young age and basically became a sex slave. She grew up in a brothel and was abused. As she grew up, she became a prostitute herself and continued to be abused by those who ran the brothel. One day Michael Hosea sees her and basically God tells him to marry her before he even knows who she is.
If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because Redeeming Love is modeled after the book of Hosea in the Bible where God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute as an example of his relationship with faithless Israel. In Redeeming Love, Michael Hosea relentlessly pursues Angel even though Angel pushes him away and would rather be a prostitute than be with him. Once she does marry him, she runs away from him to be a prostitute again, has sex with his brother in-law, but Michael Hosea forgives her and takes her back again as his wife.
So, after I watched that scene, I’ll be really honest with you about my initial reaction as a man who gives a lot of relationship advice to women. I was sad for them because this character, Michael Hosea, does not exist in the real world.
I’m telling you right now, a godly man who marries a woman who then returns to being a prostitute and also has sex with his brother in-law is not going to act like Michael Hosea acts. I was sad for women who think there are men out there who could match this unconditional love that this character in this movie was expressing. Real men have wounds too. Real men have insecurities too. Real men would be unable to get over that level of betrayal and just take a woman back instantly like this character did in this movie.
But, then I remembered what this story was based off of. Remember, Redeeming Love is based off of the book of Hosea in the Bible. So this character, Michael Hosea, is not meant to reflect real men. He’s actually meant to be a symbol of God himself. So if you watched this movie or read this book with that thought in mind, I think it could be a great reminder of the amazing, unconditional love of God.
If, however, you watch this movie or read this book and then go out looking for man who is just like Michael Hosea, you’re in for a rude awakening. While women want unconditional love, men want unconditional respect (Ephesians 5:33). For all of us, unconditional love and unconditional respect in marriage are impossible to give. We should make it our goal to be these types of spouses, but you have to accept this level of perfection can only be found in Christ alone.
As I kept thinking about all this, though, I realized why women love this story so much: The extreme nature of Angel’s betrayal gives the reader an extreme example of Michael’s unconditional love. Women aren’t reading this story and wishing they could be Angel. They are reading this story or watching this movie desiring a man like Michael.
Angel does the worst thing a woman can do to a man. She betrays his trust through sexual sins with other men. If you want to hurt a man the most deeply, that’s how you would do it. And instinctively, I believe women know this about men. They know that loyalty is really important to men, respect is really important to men, and sex is really important to men. Adultery crushes all of these desires in a man with one swift blow. So when they read about what Angel did to Michael, they know this is one of the worst things a woman can do to a man.
This sets the stage for Francine Rivers to touch on this desire in a woman for unconditional love. Through creating this crazy scene where Angel totally betrays Michael in the worst possible way, she’s created a scene where women can see a man who truly loves this woman unconditionally. Angel is the opposite type of woman men want. She’s had sex with thousands of men and she’s broken from the abuse that has happened to her, and yet Michael still loves her.
After thinking more deeply about all this, I don’t think women are so naïve to believe they can cheat on a man and then that man just snaps his fingers and acts like nothing happened. I think, rather, this movie and book creates a story that is so extreme, it heightens the example of love that all women crave from a man. They know a real man would not be able to act like God, but they do want a man who loves them, flaws and all.
Big picture, no man or woman can live up to this character of Michael Hosea in Redeeming Love. If you are looking for a guy like this, you will be single forever because this guy does not exist. Only God can give you this perfect unconditional love that Michael Hosea gives to Angel. We are all Angel in our relationship with God and God loves us all of us like Michael Hosea loves Angel.
But nonetheless, to any Christian men who are watching this and want to know what women desire, they want you to see all their flaws and still love them. We can’t do that like Christ can, but as we seek to reflect Christ as husbands (Ephesians 5:25), we should seek to make this our goal through his grace, fully knowing that only Christ can actually do this perfectly.
2. Women Want to Be Chosen and Led By a Man Who Does Not Demand Submission But Rather Allows the Woman to Choose to Submit If She Wants
Michael Hosea is praying in a church for a wife. Later that day, he sees Angel walking through the streets. In his heart, he senses she is the answer to those prayers about a wife. He then buys time with Angel in the brothel. But instead of having sex with her like all the other men do, he asks her to marry him. She rejects him over and over again but he pursues her over and over again.
Finally he gives her some space. After being abused really badly by a man at the brothel, Angel then freely chooses to go with Michael. Later on, she starts walking back to town to be a prostitute again. Michael chases her down and begs her to come back home. She refuses. He doesn’t force her, but instead gives her his coat because she’s cold and tells her the choice is hers – “that way is the brothel and this way is home.” He then leaves her to make the choice herself. Hours later, she comes back home.
I believe these scenes are tapping on a deep desire in a woman’s heart. She wants to be chosen. She wants a man to come into her life and know for certain that she’s the one for him. But she doesn’t just want to be chosen. She also wants the freedom to be able to then choose this man for herself. She wants a man who is very secure in his pursuit of her and won’t back down easily, but she doesn’t want him to cross the line of being demanding and controlling.
She also wants a man who is going to express his interest first. Michael Hosea expressed his interest and then gave her time to decide what she wanted. His pursuit was not dependent on the foreknowledge of her liking him instantly too. When she rejected him, he was not deterred.
While women admire this in Michael Hosea, in real life they often interpret this as creepy when guys do this to them. So as a man, use wisdom. You will have to decipher if you actually have a chance with her and need to be persistent or if she is truly not interested in you. Again, this is where the Hollywood verse reality are at great odds with each other.
Therefore, rather than seeing Michaels actions as a model to follow, I think we again need to take a step back and say, “What are these scenes telling us about the desires of a woman?” Angel’s extreme rejection of Michael and Michaels extreme commitment to his choice of her is hitting on the desire in a woman to be chosen by a man who then gives her the freedom to choose to follow him.
She wants a man who will lead her but not a man who will dominate her. She doesn’t want to be with a man who just leads. She wants to be with a man who she wants to be led by. Remember, when Paul tells a wife to submit, he tells it to her and not to the husband (Ephesians 5:22). It has to be her choice. Michael Hosea knew that. He was leading, but he let Angel submit to him only once she was ready. He never forced anything on her.
This is what women want in a man.
3. A Woman Wants a Man Who Doesn’t Care About Her Past
A big theme throughout Redeeming Love is that Angel can’t understand why Michael would want to be with a woman like her. He repeatedly tells her things like, “I don’t care about your past,” “I don’t care what you’ve done,” and “I know you’re not the same person anymore.”
After years of working with women about relationships, I know this is a huge topic. So many women have told me that they are afraid of being in a godly relationship because they fear that a Christian man won’t want to be with them once they realize how much sexual sin is in their past. And so it’s not hard to see why women love this story of Angel and Michael Hosea. If a man could look past Angel’s sexual sin history, it gives hope to all women because no one could have a worse sexual sin history than her.
Another trait that Michael had that women love about him is that he understood the abuse in Angels life that led her into this life of sin. When Angel was a child, she was taken advantage of and raised in a brothel. This was not her fault. She should not be blamed for any of that. As she grew up, her wounds from her childhood then tempted her into a sinful lifestyle. While she still endured abuse as an adult woman that was not her choice, she also then made sinful choices too.
Michael was able to see the connection between the things she did not choose influencing the things she did choose, and he offered her grace. He was willing to see her for who she was now, he considered her wounds, and he understood the sin in her past was not what she really wanted. She wanted to be a godly woman now and then Michael treated her like a godly woman.
Please note, however, that whether you are a man or woman, you don’t get to live a life of sin and then demand that a someone sees you as someone who did not do any of that. Of course we should all see each other through the lens of God’s grace, but God’s grace does not change the facts of your history. If a man abused a woman in the past, other women might not want to be with him now. If a woman slept with hundreds of men, a man may not want to be with her now. So men and women should remember the choices they make today will affect the future relationships they have one day.
But again, the extreme example of Michael not caring about Angel’s hits on the desire in women to have a man who does not judge her by her past. As Christians, this should be our goal. We truly are new creations in Christ and we should all see that in each other. But ultimately we have to remember that the character of Michael Hosea is really based on God. Yes, as Christians, we must see each other as the new creations we are in Christ. But none of us can do this perfectly accept God himself.
4. A Woman Wants a Man Who Values Her for More than the Sex She Can Offer Him
Once Michael and Angel get married, Michael chooses not to have sex with Angel right away because he knows she’s been sexually abused throughout her life. Because Angel was a prostitute, once Michael shows her kindness, she starts using language like, “Let me pay you back” and “Come one, I owe you.” She sees sex as a currency to make things even with Michael. She doesn’t yet view sex as an expression of love between a husband and wife.
Michael is sexually attracted to her and wants to have sex, but he refuses to have sex with her even though they are married because he wants her to know he loves her for more than the sex she can give him. When she was still at the brothel, he would pay for her time so he could just talk to her. As a husband and wife, he stays up late and just talks to her without enjoying her body.
This taps on the desire in women to want to be known. They know men crave sex, and so they often struggle to feel like men really love them for more than the sex they can provide. So in Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers creates scenes where Michael Hosea expresses this trait in a way that depicts what women really want in a man. They don’t want to be loved for the sex they can provide. A woman wants to be loved by a man because he has gotten to know her and he loves what he has discovered in her.
A woman then wants to have sex with her husband once she feels he loves her for more than sex.
5. A Woman Wants a Man Who Keeps Pursuing Her Even After He Discovers Her Problems
As I already described earlier, once Michael and Angel get married, Angel rebels and turns back to her life of prostitution for a period of time. But Michael keeps pursuing her. No matter what problems she has, no matter how bad she treats him, no matter how hard she pushes him away, Michael keeps pursuing.
Again, real relationships don’t work this way. You can’t treat a man like trash and expect him to keep pursuing you. Honestly, if a man pursued a woman like Michael pursued Angel, in our modern society she would probably get a restraining order placed on him.
So the point here is not to encourage men to keep pursuing women no matter what like this fictional character, Michael Hosea, did. Rather, I believe these extreme scenes in this book tap on the deeper fear in women that once a man really gets to know her, they will stop pursuing because of the problems they will find in her.
Every woman knows she’s not the perfect woman men are seeking. And so they either pretend to be perfect and hide their flaws, or they run away from men because they know one day a man will discover her issues and so she just avoids men all together now.
Big picture, if Redeeming Love shows us nothing else, it shows us that women want a man who will pursue and keep pursuing even when things get hard. She wants a man who is stable in himself and who doesn’t need her to be the strong one. Rather than finding his strength in the woman, a woman wants a man who is already strong and offers his strength to her.
While men and woman should certainly do their best to love like God loves, we have to remember we are all flawed. None of us can live up to the character of Michael Hosea in Francine River’s Redeeming Love except God himself.