Monday, August 6, 2018

A Defense of Reckless Love

reckless - utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action; without caution; careless; characterized by or proceeding from such carelessness

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

Sunday morning, our worship set included the song Reckless Love by Cory Asbury.  It is a highly singable song with a beautiful melody and can be a very impactful and powerful song in worship.  The lyrics speak of God's continual pursuit of His creation.

Singing it Sunday morning made me think of recent conversations that I have seen online calling the song out as heretical.  And it seems this has been a popular topic in Christian social media, along with several articles all just a Google search away.

God's Love is not Reckless, Contrary to What You Might Sing

Should Christians Listen to "Reckless Love"? - Christian Research Network

Bethel Music and Bieber Sang It.  But Do We Really Believe In 'Reckless Love'?

No, Cory Asbury's 'Reckless Love' Isn't Heretical, But Could've Gone Further

The uproar focused on the use of the single word "reckless" in the chorus.  Critics would argue that God by His very nature could not be reckless, careless, or could not act without caution.  In particular, they would point to all of God's actions as being intentional and pre-ordained.

The discussion even reached a point where Cory Asbury felt the need to explain his use of the word reckless to describe God's love.

So, in being a fan of the song and the message that it conveys, I thought I would add my defense to Reckless Love.  In particular, a few points I believe the critics are not giving enough credence to.

1) The language is poetic, not literal - Asbury's point is one that should be given weight.  He's not describing God as reckless, but using reckless to describe the showing of God's love.  Further, he's not using a literal definition of reckless to describe God's love, but an idea.  The idea that God's love is extravagant, that it is lavish.  It's conveying the type of love exemplified by the father in the story of the prodigal son. We've talked about how, in many ways, the word 'prodigal' exemplifies both the wayward son and the father in the story.  "Prodigal" means spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant and having or giving something on a lavish scale.  We know how the son spends prodigally; he blows through his entire portion of his inheritance.  We also see this kind of spending by the father in celebration of his wayward son coming home.  The father lavishes his son with a fine robe, sandals, and a ring and orders the fatted calf be slaughtered for a celebratory meal.  The father extends far more generosity on this returned son than could ever be expected.  And that is the way the Father loves us.  Far more lavishly, far more generously than we could ever hope to expect.  From our perspective, it looks a bit reckless.

2) The perspective of the song cannot be ignored - When dealing with art, it is always important to determine what perspective the piece is to be viewed from.  Here the song is clearly coming from man's perspective on how God's love appears.  What God's love looks like from the outside or from the believer/recipient.  A description of how that person felt or perceived that show of love.  From that perspective, it's easy to see how God's love could be seen as reckless.  How it could even be seen as wasteful.  Who am I to deserve such love?  I may can understand God's purpose and its theological implications in a rhetorical sense, but that does not preclude recognition of the feeling attached to it as well.

3) The song deals more with emotion than rhetoric or theology - Art is also better suited to address emotion and feeling than theology or rhetoric.  A song, even without words, can tap into a mood or a feeling.  It's why instrumental only music can often be referred to as 'mood' music.  Likewise, lyrics are more often used to capture a feeling than a specific thought.  The poetry of the language, the repetition used, the rhythm in the way the words are conveyed.  These all help tap into the feeling the song is addressing.  I would argue the overall feeling Reckless Love is trying to convey is awe of the actions of God and humility regarding our lack of worth to deserve them.  "I couldn't earn it, I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away." And in the context of that emotion, God's love can appear to be shown with reckless abandon.

I don't know why this stood out to me as so necessary to give a defense.  Perhaps it is just my tolerance level fading as I age, losing interest in theological nit-picking (likely why I will also have a defense around Christmas-time for Mary Did You Know?).  I have long subscribed to the idea of "in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity."  While this quote and its attribution are controversial as well, they promote an idea of harmony that is sorely missing in our world and in the church today.  And as I study, the list of things that are essential to the faith, those core tenets on which unity of understanding is absolutely essential, continues to be refined.  Whether or not we should sing Reckless Love to me, seems to be an argument in missing the point.

Whether or not you believe reckless is a fine word in the song or believe it should be changed to something like relentless, why don't we just celebrate the awesome love that God has demonstrated to us and then go out and do likewise.

There's no shadow You won't light up
Mountain You won't climb up
Coming after me

There's no wall You won't kick down
Lie you won't tear down
Coming after me

1 comment:

  1. If there is a need to explain away a song - then it's not a good song