One of the most popular praise songs in the past few years is Reckless Love. Millions of Christians around the world sing it in thousands of churches and listen to it on hundreds of radio stations and online. If millions of Christians sing a song in thousands of churches around the world and listen to it on radio and online, then the words in the song must be true. Right?
God’s ‘love’ is at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so we need to get everything about His love right. Right?
Okay, then what does it mean when we say or sing that God’s love is ‘reckless?”
Let’s begin by looking at the chorus for Reckless Love, then hear from the author of that chorus to see why he chose to use the word ‘reckless’ to describe God’s love.
“Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me You have been so, so good to me Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me You have been so, so kind to me Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah.” Reckless Love lyrics © Bethel Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
‘Reckless Love’ won some big GMA Dove Awards in 2018 –
- Song of the Year
- Worship Song of the Year
- Worship Album of the Year
‘Reckless Love’ was also nominated for the Grammy and Billboard Music Awards.
Choosing Worship Music
I determine whether a song is right for me to sing based on the words agreeing with Scripture – not its popularity. I did that leading worship music in churches and as the host of a contemporary Christian music radio program decades ago. Words like “You have been so, so good to me” agree with Scripture, so I’m happy to sing them. God’s love being “overwhelming, never-ending” are also fine. However, God’s love being “reckless” – is where I find a ‘disagreement’ with Scripture.
Here’s what Cory Asbury said on YouTube about writing the chorus and why he used the word ‘reckless’ to describe God’s love –
“Reckless love is really the song of my whole life. That phrase kinda dropped in my heart about maybe five years ago. I just started experiencing the kindness of the Father, the goodness of the Father in a way I’d never experienced before; and so that phrase ‘the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God was kind of lodged in here [points to heart]. I didn’t know what to do with it. One night I woke up, it was probably three in the morning, and I had the full melody for that chorus. I grabbed my iPhone and I ran in the closet and I closed he door and sang it into my iPhone and the next day I just sat down at the piano and kinda pounded out the chorus … A lot of people have asked why I used the word ‘reckless’ to describe God. I see the love of God as something wild, insane, crazy; the way He pursues, the way He chases us down, the way that He loves, I believe is reckless. So, we were going after that really furious, sort of violent language to speak of the nature of the love of God.” Bethel Music, January 2018
He also said this in an interview with Multitracks.com in October 2017 –
“In explaining the meaning behind the song, Cory shares, ‘When I use the phrase, ‘the reckless love of God,’ I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. His love bankrupted heaven for you.” Multitracks.com
Notice some important terms from his testimony:
- that phrase kinda ‘dropped’ in my heart
- ‘I see’ the love of God as something wild, insane, crazy
- the way that He loves, ‘I believe’ is reckless
- really furious .. violent language to speak of the nature of the love of God
- His love bankrupted heaven for you
The terms ‘dropped in,’ ‘I see,’ and ‘I believe’ are important to note. Truth about God’s nature or character can never based on personal experience alone. Biblical truth is not what God’s Word “means to me,” “how I see it” or “how I feel it.” We all have our own experiences about things, but it has to agree with Scripture in order for an experience to be true. True?
Based on the writer’s own testimony, we now have several words to consider:
We’ll look at the idea of God’s love being ‘furious’ and ‘violent’ and ‘bankrupting Heaven’ in future articles, but let’s begin with God’s love being ‘reckless, wild, insane’ and ‘crazy.’
The word “reckless” is defined this way in several modern dictionaries –
“(of a person or their actions) without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action” Dictionary.com
“marked by lack of proper caution, careless of consequences; irresponsible” Merriam-Webster
“showing a lack of care about risks or danger, and acting without thinking about the results of your actions” Cambridge English Dictionary
“The word reckless comes from the Old English word receleas, meaning “careless, thoughtless, heedless.” If you have a reckless attitude, you aren’t concerned about what happens to yourself or others who are affected by your actions. In this usage, reckless is the opposite of considerate.” Vocabulary.com
“Heedless of danger or the consequences of one’s actions; rash or impetuous” Oxford Dictionary
“not thinking about the possible bad effects of your actions” Macmillan Dictionary
“Acting or done with a lack of care or caution; careless or irresponsible” Free Dictionary
“careless; heedless not regarding consequences; headlong and irresponsible; rash” YourDictionary.com
So, if we sing a song in church that says God’s love is “reckless,” what are we saying? Are we saying God’s love is –
- headlong and irresponsible?
- acting without thinking about the results of your actions?
- lack of care or caution?
- the opposite of considerate?
Is that what Christians mean about God’s love when they sing that His love is “reckless?”
Cory said he sees God’s love “as something wild, insane, crazy; the way He pursues, the way He chases us down, the way that He loves, I believe is reckless.”
Really? God’s love is ‘wild, insane, crazy’?
Let’s make sure we’re understanding the terms Cory used since it’s about the ‘nature’ of God’s love –
“(of an animal or plant) living or growing in the natural environment; not domesticated or cultivated” Dictionary.com
“not subject to restraint or regulation” Merriam-Webster
“extreme or violent and not controlled” Cambridge English Dictionary
“(of a look, appearance, etc.) indicating distraction or strong emotion” Oxford Dictionary
“not sane; not of sound mind; mentally deranged; of, relating to, or characteristic of a person who is mentally deranged” Dictionary.com
“exhibiting a severely disordered state of mind, affected with mental illness, unable to think in a clear or sensible way” Merriam-Webster
“In a state of mind which prevents normal perception, behaviour, or social interaction; seriously mentally ill” Oxford Dictionaries
“mentally deranged; demented; insane; senseless; impractical; totally unsound” Dictionary.com
“not mentally sound : marked by thought or action that lacks reason” Merriam-Webster
“very strange or foolish” Cambridge English Dictionary
“Mad, especially as manifested in wild or aggressive behaviour” Oxford Dictionaries
“not at all sensible or practical” Macmillan Dictionary
The Importance of Words
I understand why Christians enjoy singing the song ‘Reckless Love’ from a musical perspective. It’s a catchy tune where they can sing about God and how much He loves them. It can give the singer a good feeling about themselves and their relationship with the God who loves them. However, is that the rule by which we determine what psalms, hymns and spiritual songs God wants us to sing?
Here are some words the Bible does use to describe God’s love –
- endures forever
- passes knowledge
- suffers long
- does not envy
- not puffed up
- does not behave rudely
- does not seek its own
- is not provoked
- thinks no evil
- does not rejoice in iniquity
- rejoices the truth
- bears all things
- believes all things
- hopes all things
- endures all things
To be fair to the writers of the song, I did search for the word ‘reckless’ in the Bible and found it several times in different translations of the Bible. While some translations used the word ‘reckless,’ other translations chose to use the word ‘rash’ or ‘rashly’ –
The angel of the Lord asked him, ‘Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.” Numbers 22:32 NIV
“So they gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless men; and they followed him.” Judges 9:4
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18 NIV
“A wise man fears, and shuns evil, but the fool is hot headed and reckless.” Proverbs 14:16 WEB
“Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” says the Lord, “and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all,” says the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:32
“Her prophets are reckless, treacherous men; Her priests have profaned the sanctuary. They have done violence to the law.” Zephaniah 3:4 NASB
“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” 2 Timothy 3:1-4 NASB
“They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.” 1 Peter 4:4 NIV
Learning About God’s Love
All of the uses of the word ‘reckless’ in the Bible are negative. God’s love is never described as reckless, careless, rash, irresponsible, or impetuous. In fact, God’s love is described as being thoughtful, sacrificial, gracious, caring and everlasting.
God is Love and He loves us from eternity with an everlasting love. God loves us with great thought and concern. His ‘pursuit’ of us began in eternity when Father, Son and Holy Spirit decided graciously and sacrificially that God the Father would send God the Son “to seek and to save the lost” through His sacrificial death on a Roman cross and resurrection from a Jewish grave. The Work of God the Holy Spirit is to convict people of their sin and point them to eternal life that comes through faith in God the Son.
We’ll learn more about God’s Love in the next part of our special series, Is God’s Love Reckless?.
Here is a video of worship leaders you may find helpful.
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.