There’s a massively popular worship song right now called “Reckless Love” by Bethel Music’s Cory Asbury. The lyrics of the chorus are:
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
Like a good Reformed blogger, after listening to it I began thinking about the phrase, “The reckless love of God.” Is God’s love really reckless? What does that mean? Does that phrase capture the biblical concept of God’s love?
What Does “Reckless” Love Mean?
First, let me say that I fully understand what Asbury was trying to say in the song. As an artist (I’m using that term loosely) myself, I hate it when people perform theological surgery on art without trying to understand the creator’s intent.
Asbury was trying to capture the glorious, breathtaking, staggering, blows the mind nature of God’s love. The saving, redeeming, rescuing love of God truly is unfathomable and oceanic. It’s a perplexing, head-shaking kind of love. It’s the kind of love that surpasses words.
I’m totally on board with singing songs that express the wonder of God’s love, and I appreciate what Asbury was trying to do with the song and the words “reckless love.”
But even though God’s love detonates our dictionary, the words we use to describe it do matter. And I actually think that the phrase “reckless love” sells God’s love short. It actually minimizes the love of God in some ways.
The Overwhelming, Never Ending, Intentional Love of God
In just about every context, the word “reckless” either means not heeding danger or not knowing the outcome and acting anyway.
A parent who plunges into a burning house to rescue a child is reckless in the sense that they’re ignoring the danger and might die in the process. That could certainly be called reckless love and is probably the most positive example of recklessness.
An investor who plows money into stocks without any knowledge of the company is reckless and will probably end up bankrupt or owing money to guys who carry baseball bats.
When a NASCAR driver makes a dangerous move to pass another car, he’s a reckless driver.
You get the point.
God’s love, on the other hand, is incredibly intentional and fully omniscient, and that’s what makes it so beautiful.
When it comes to saving and rescuing and redeeming and loving us, God knew EXACTLY what he was getting into.
In 2 Timothy 1:9, Paul says that God:
…saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…
Before he created the world, God knew that he would send Christ into a sinful, wicked, twisted, bent and broken world to die for our sins. He knew precisely what would happen. He knew that we would reject him, abhor him, worship false gods and be his enemy.
And yet in spite of this, he planned to save us.
To save me. To save you. That truly is overwhelming, never-ending, intentional love.
When Jesus went to the cross, he was well aware of Isaiah 53:5-6, which says:
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
When Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem, he knew what was coming. He knew that the wrath of God toward sin—my sin and your sin—was going to be poured out on him.
When he sweat and trembled and plead with God in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was fully aware that he was about to be swallowed up by the overwhelming hatred of God toward sin.
And yet he still went to the cross. Deliberately substituting himself for us. Intentionally spreading his precious blood over the doorframes of our lives.
This is not a reckless love. This is love so intentional and specific and knowing that it takes your breath away.
God knew how much it would cost him to redeem us. He knew that his beloved son, the one adored by angels and upholding the world by his word, would be spit upon and mocked and ripped open by whips and pinned to a cross and pierced by a spear.
He knew that Jesus would scream, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And he knew that the Immortal One would be swallowed by death.
The glory of God’s love is that he knew exactly what it would cost…
…and he did it anyway.
Delighting in the Love of God
Is God’s love reckless? No, it’s so much better than that. He loves us specifically and intentionally. And because we know that God didn’t spare his own son, we also know that he won’t withhold any good thing from us.
This kind of overwhelming love propels us to worship and adoration. It moves us to say, “Father, why would you save the likes of me?” It drives us to our knees in humble gratefulness.
Do we deserve it? No. Could we earn it? Never. But God lavishly loves us anyway.
Charles Spurgeon, who never seemed to have trouble finding the right words, said this:
Amen to that.