Stop Singing Reckless Love | Griffin Foxworth
B.A. Advanced Theological Studies
B.A. Biblical Studies
Stop Singing Reckless Love
If you are a Christian, it is very likely that you have heard the song “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury. This is a high-quality piece of music that contains much artistic creativity and a lot of emotional pull. However, this song is also surrounded by a controversy that has the Christian community heavily divided. This debate is focused on whether or not the use of the word “reckless” to describe God’s love is appropriate. I am here today to put this debate to bed. It is unequivocally true that the use of the word reckless to describe God is inappropriate in any setting, but especially in a worship setting.
I’m sure that right off the bat people will have objections to the fact that I am even making this claim. It may be said that I am acting in legalism like the Pharisees did in the New Testament. This is not the case. Having written my Senior Research on the topic of legalism, I like to think I have some expertise on the concept. Pharisaical legalism is founded in the fact that they created and enforced rules and regulations that were outside of what Scripture has required of God’s people. However, as the rest of this article will demonstrate, this discussion is centralized in Scripture, not outside of it. Another objection to this argument is that some may say that I am being nitpicky. To that I respond with a resounding YES! I am definitely being nitpicky; in fact, if there in one thing in this world that I am certainly going to be nitpicky about it is how I worship God, the eternal Creator of the universe and my Savior. I can’t imagine somebody not being nitpicky when it comes to how we talk about the God whom we worship. Our intentions don’t matter, and our feelings don’t matter when it comes to how we worship God. What matters is what God thinks and what His Word says. The Israelite who tried to save the ark from falling in 2 Samuel 6:7 was still struck dead by the wrath of God. He had good intentions, he was trying to keep the ark from falling; however, he had violated the decree of God and therefore the wrath of God was poured out on him. Good intentions don’t matter if it contradicts the truth/will of God; so yes, call me nitpicky, the stakes are high.
Let’s transition into the arguments for the use of the word “reckless” and examine them one by one. The first and most popular argument comes from the song itself: the parable the 99 sheep and the one sheep. In this parable found in Matthew 18:12-14, the shepherd (God) leaves His flock of 99 sheep in order to find one sheep (us) that had strayed away. The argument is that it is very obviously reckless for a shepherd to leave 99 sheep in order to find one. Yes, it may seem that way from a surface level reading that is taken out of context; however, this is not the intended message of this parable. The point of the parable is to show the importance that God puts on individual people. This was a powerful message, especially to a culture that found its identity within their people groups, not their individuality. God doesn’t want to lose any one of His children, so He will chase after them. This love is not reckless, it’s all encompassing and all powerful. To say that this love is reckless is to insert our own meaning into the motivation behind what God is doing when He pursues us. Another point to be made is that in the previous verses, Jesus had been talking about God’s children who have “strayed away.” So even further so, this parable is saying that God will love and pursue His children, even when they stray from Him. Again, this enforces the idea of God’s love and forgiveness, not His love as reckless.
Now that the parable has been examined, let’s take a look at the word “reckless.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition is, “marked by lack of proper caution; careless of consequences.” Does this sound like God to you? I certainly hope not. Psalm 147:5 says, “Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.” Nothing about God is careless or lacking in proper caution. God is not flighty, and His plans are fully examined at all points. The Cross was not an audible. It was a brilliant plan born out of eternity and instituted by a love that has always existed for God’s people. What does calling God’s love reckless do to our understanding of Him? It transforms God from the omniscient planner of the universe to a flighty, emotion-controlled being, with no foresight or focus. This is not how we should be displaying God, especially in a worship setting that may include unbelievers or new Christians who have not yet developed a good understanding of who God is. The simple fact of the matter is: God is not reckless.
So why is that important? Another argument I hear from people is that while God may not actually be reckless, his love sure seems reckless from our perspective, so what’s the problem? The problem is this: when it comes to worship and how we talk about God, our perspectives don’t matter at all. Scripture is clear throughout the Old and New Testament that God will only be worshipped on His terms, through the truth of who He is based off of His Word. The Israelites worshipped God on their terms when they created the Golden Calf in Exodus 32 and, if you recall, God was not a fan of that. We have no choice but to worship God on His terms, not our own. When we start saying things like: “But I really enjoy this song,” or “I think that God’s love seems reckless,” or “But this song just makes me feel so connected to God,” we have just made worship about us and not God. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how we feel about the word reckless or how the word reckless makes us feel, what matters is what God thinks of the word reckless; and I can guarantee you that God does not appreciate being worshipped as something that He is not, because God is not reckless. Worship is not a place for “artistic liberty” when it comes to how we define God and His attributes. So, stop it.
Honestly, there are so many words that could be used in that song other than reckless that would fit so much better in the description of God. All-encompassing love, powerful love, mighty love, forgiving love, eternal love, perfect love, precious love, etc… Would the sound of the song suffer? Perhaps, but that is a small price to pay in exchange for an accurate portrayal of God. The worship of God is not something to be taken lightly, so I urge anyone reading this to think long and hard about how God is being portrayed in the way you worship, I know that lately I have, and it is eye opening.
 Barbieri, L. A., & Jr. (1985). Matthew. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Ed.) (Mt 18:7–14). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.