To those unaware, there is a song by Cory Asbury entitled “Reckless Love” that has become quite the favorite song of a large degree of the evangelical Church in America. It has also become quite the song of debate due to the lyrics in the song, that say:
“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God”
This song and word use has caused quite the debate in the Church, and I think it’s a good one for us to all examine to learn from. In this post, will examine the words of Cory himself about the meaning of this song, and attempt to theologically deconstruct his reasoning and see if it stands the test of the Word. I submit that what we will discover is that the phrase “reckless love” is in fact an oxymoron, also known as a contradiction. We can not say that false is true, and soon we will hopefully see how we can not say that love is reckless.
Before we do this, let me first say that from my discernment of Cory and his many other words spoken during his explanation of the song, I perceive a man who I would say no doubt has a faith in Christ. I believe he likely has many good works, likely more than I currently, built on Christ that will stand the test of the fire to which we all must pass through (1 Corinthians 3:11-15); though, this is for God Himself to judge, not I. My intent in this post is not to claw down or cause harm to Cory’s image as a Christ bearer in any way; rather, my hope is that we may all find encouragement as we sift this lyric through the Word so that we are better able to worship in Spirit and truth (John 4:23-24).
I think the best way we can assess such a song, lyrics, and our arguments for or against them, is to see what scripture has to say. In a performance of this song seen here (he begins about 6 minutes in), Cory makes the following statement from which he basis several more statements:
“When we use the phrase, we’re not saying that God himself is reckless, He’s not crazy. We are however saying that the way he loves in many regards is quite so“.
I will base our examination on this statement, because ultimately it is qualifying how Cory believes he is able to use the word “reckless” in relation to God. He tries to say that God’s “love” is reckless, but that God Himself is not. I will endeavor to show us how we can not make such a claim.
From 1 John 4:8 (whole passage entitled “God is Love”) we know that “God is love”. We understand and know who God is, and how to define Him, through how He loved us through Jesus’s death on the cross (verse 9-10 of the same passage).
John 15:12-13 also says:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
The greatest love we could possibly know is the love of Christ through the cross; it is literally how we define love and know God, who “is love”. If the writers of dictionaries were Christian, they would know that the entry for “love” should look something like:
1. God, primarily expressed and known through the person of the trinity Jesus, and His actions of self sacrifice for the sins of humanity and his death on the cross.
1. To give one’s self up through the forsaking of rights, status, comfort, security, and power, for the sake of bringing the truth of the Gospel and God’s Word to another, especially when it is done at great expense, harm, or consequence to one’s self.
So, by saying that God’s love is “reckless”, we are in fact then saying that God Himself is reckless, because He is defined by His love and it is through Him that we know what love is. God literally “is love”; He is our definition of what love is. To say God’s love is reckless then must mean that God is Himself “reckless”.
On the contrary, a sovereign God is no way “reckless”. He is perfect in His ordination of all things that pass, working out even the works of evil people for good (Romans 8:28, Genesis 50:20). Psalm 139:13-16 tells how we were intricately woven and our days planned for us before we were even born. Proverbs 16:33 tells us that not even a coin lands heads up or tails without God determining it to be so. Ephesians 2:8-10, especially verse 10, tell us that the works we perform in our faith were prepared for us by God because they are not our own, rather His.
So in fact, God’s love is the opposite of “reckless”. It is perfect and wholly in His control, planned and ordained for all eternity that He may bring us through a process of salvation that even angels long to look into (1 Peter 1:12).
Ultimately, I submit that Cory has conflated the ideas of being “selfless” with being “reckless”. Being “selfless” means giving up of ones self and personal rights, comfort, security, etc., to serve someone else even though there may be great consequence to the sacrificing individual. It means you HAVE considered the consequences, and still chose to do what you did, even at great pain to you. That is exactly what Jesus did; knowing full well the exact consequences that would come to himself, He still gave himself up for us. In the garden of Gethsemane, he was in so much anguish over what was to happen that he asked God if the cup could pass from Him. He clearly was aware and thinking of the consequences, though He chose to accept them for the sake of us.
Reckless, on the other hand, is defined as “having or showing a lack of concern for the consequences of one’s actions” … Synonyms for reckless are “rash”, “thoughtless”, “careless”, “impulsive”, etc. Ultimately it means that someone has not thought through, given thought towards, or shown concern for what consequences may come from their actions. That is exactly the opposite of the love shown to us in Christ. His sacrifice was very thoughtful, very planned, greatly examined and understood, etc. … and yes … very selfless … but in no way “reckless”.
I can definitely see where confusion comes in just by looking at the definition of reckless, because it seems like we can say “oh right, Christ had a “lack of concern” for how his actions would hurt him, so he was reckless!”. That, I submit, is a misunderstanding of the meaning of reckless. And, as in Gethsemane, we saw that Jesus was in fact concerned, yet still decided to go through with His sacrifice in submission to the Father and for us. If we try to call that recklessness, then we deny Him the right to be called selfless. If we try to ascribe the idea of being reckless to consequences of our actions that may come back on us, we have in fact removed the necessity for the word “selfless” all together. If we are in fact walking as Christ commands us, considering others greater than ourselves and not caring for our needs, rather the needs of others, than the only way in which the word “reckless” can be used, is in the context of how our actions affect others, not us.
If what I have said is true about God’s love and recklessness, I don’t think “reckless love” could ever be a true statement. It would be an oxymoron; “reckless” implies a lack of concern or thoughtfulness for what might result from one’s actions. Biblical love as shown by a sovereign God involves fully considered consequences, in so much as they could have hurt Jesus as a human, both physically and emotionally. Not only were the outcomes and possible consequences of God’s love thought through, but actually ordained to pass by God’s will so that He could be seen as gracious and merciful; by selflessly accepting the consequences of giving Himself for the sake of others, who only gained through His actions, God’s mercy and grace is perfectly displayed. There were no “consequences” to us from his actions, only forgiveness and gain.
From a secular perspective, “reckless love” would probably best be defined as “love that, through self interest, disregards or fails to consider consequences of its actions in regards to the partner or others”. For example, a teenage boy just looking to have sex will disregard the emotional and potentially physical consequences to the female in order to serve himself. That would be to say that, in a secular sense, the boy’s love was “reckless”. He either knew of the consequences that would come to the girl and cared not of them, or he didn’t even consider them as he sought to gratify his desire. Either way, it would be properly qualified as reckless. Obviously we know that this analogy is not of real biblical “love”, rather intimacy, hence why I say that, given a true understanding of love, “reckless love” could only ever be an oxymoron.
Poetry, passion, creativity, and artistic design are all great gifts given to us by God, but we should use them to worship in Spirit and truth. Cory is clearly a very gifted and talented musician and gifted in artistry, but no one is given the right or liberty to twist, bend, or be false in teaching for the sake of artistry. Obviously I don’t think it was Cory’s intent is to be malicious with what he has created, and it seems that Cory certainly knows Christ and has a heart for Him. However, teachers are judged with greater strictness and not many should become teachers (James 3:1) (which is what you are doing by writing songs of worship, Colossians 3), so I think we should encourage caution and wisdom over such lyrics and spiritual song writing, because ultimately it is shepherding a lot of people to worship a God different than what the Bible tells us.
If what I have said is correct, think of how many people now think that God is in any way actually reckless, Him or His love which He is defined by …