By Pastors Tom and Nathan Rush
As Inigo said to Fezzik in The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” The truth is, words have real meanings. Sadly, many CCM lyric writers, like Fezzik above, were apparently educated in schools missing one very important book—a dictionary! To the uninitiated, a dictionary gives you spelling, pronunciation, and most importantly, definitions of words. I don’t mean to be rude or ugly. I understand that often the intention of such authors is to convey a message that is at a minimum honoring to God. But, if you use words to describe God, or His characteristics, then quite frankly you should sound like you know what you are talking about.
Here is a particular case in point: one of the most popular current contemporary Christian songs is titled “Reckless Love.” It is a failed attempt to describe the love of God. Let’s start with the obvious. The very title of the song is an oxymoron. As a literary device, oxymora can be used to make a point. But this example of the practice simply reveals a theologically inaccurate view of God’s love. “Reckless Love” is “a combination of contradictory or incongruous words,” in other words, an oxymoron.
You cannot speak of someone else’s attributes without also making a statement about the person themselves. If, for example, you were to describe my personality as harsh and cruel, you are in essence saying that I am harsh and cruel. By that same principle, to refer to God’s love as reckless is akin to accusing God of being reckless. At the very least such a thing is incredibly disrespectful to our most gracious Redeemer; in the worst it borders on the blasphemous.
This concept is not completely lost on the author of the song. The fact that his background comes from the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City is worth considering. Many apologetics organizations consider IHOP to be a cultic group. They are involved in mysticism, Gnosticism, false prophecies, and they generally deny the sufficiency of Scripture.
Within the framework of that backdrop, here is the author’s explanation of the phrase he used: “When I used the phrase, ‘the reckless love of God,’ when we say it, we’re not saying that God Himself is reckless, He’s not crazy. We are, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. But what I mean is this: He’s utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His own actions with regard to His own safety, comfort and well-being. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself on the line, He simply puts Himself out there on the off-chance that you and I might look back at Him and give Him that love in return.” –Cory Asbury
At the risk of sounding perhaps ruder than I intend, there is no way to give this theological nonsense a pass. The man who wrote the song clearly has a view of God and His love that is unbiblical, inaccurate, and thoroughly shameful from a Christian theological perspective. Allow me to expound and explain.
First, you cannot call God’s love reckless without impugning the very character of God Himself, let alone His gracious and perfect love. I do not think reckless means whatever Mr. Asbury has chosen to assign to the word. The dictionary we spoke of earlier enlightens us on this point. Here is what the word actually means: “1 marked by lack of proper caution: careless of consequences: 2 irresponsible.” It shouldn’t take a seminary graduate to understand that this proper definition fits neither God’s love nor His person.
Further, the dictionary goes on to give us some synonyms for reckless. They are: “daredevil, devil-may-care, foolhardy, harum-scarum, hell-for-leather, irresponsible, kamikaze.” God would surely be offended by these terms if they were ascribed to Him. That is precisely what the word reckless does in the context of the song.
Second, let’s credit Mr. Asbury with being correct when he states that God is “not crazy.” I’m sure the Lord is grateful for the songwriter’s recognition of this fact. And while my tone toward Mr. Asbury and his comments might be on the mordant side, I believe that when we are talking about the righteous and holy person of God Himself, we need a little more dignity and respect. Reverence would be a good word to describe that concept.
But Mr. Asbury is absolutely wrong in his assessment that God is “utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His own actions with regard to His safety, comfort and well-being.” That’s totally untrue in any Biblical sense. The Bible is replete with direct statements that tell us what God is concerned with. Namely, God is concerned primarily with His own glory.
“Oh magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together.” Psalm 34:3
“Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; And let those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘Let God be magnified!’” Psalm 70:4 (NKJV)
“And Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the LORD spoke saying, ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.’’ So Aaron held his peace.” Leviticus 10:3 (NKJV)
There is a sense in which Mr. Asbury is correct. God is perfectly safe and comfortable, and His being is most well cared for. But God is entirely sovereign and very specific with regard to every thought, word and action toward His creation. He is never “unconcerned.” Never. God has never wrung His hands, worried about the outcome of His safety and comfort. That’s where His sovereignty comes into play.
Finally, Mr. Asbury says, “He [God] doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself on the line, He simply puts Himself out there on the off-chance that you and I might look back at Him and give Him that love in return.” This is gibberish and offensive to a Holy God. God has nothing to lose. God is not looking toward humanity with some goofy doe-eyed expression while sighing wistfully, “If only they’d choose to love Me!” Mr. Asbury conceives of a God who requires that you love Him back in order that His heart not be broken. Perish such thoughts from your mind, and refuse to entertain them!
Let me tell you what was broken in regard to God’s love. God’s righteous law was broken first, broken by those who had known nothing of God but His love! And because of that broken law, the very body of His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, was broken. What was shed for you in the love of God poured out on Calvary’s hillside? The very blood of the sinless, spotless Son of God flowed to the ground from His body as He literally gave up His life. None had the power to take it from Him by force. He willingly laid it down in order that we might be spared the wrath of God. That is specific. That is not careless, but most careful.
As the great hymn writer William R. Newell said, “Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan! Oh, the grace that brought it down to man! Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span! At Calvary!” This was no reckless, desperate, last minute attempt by God to stave off the works of His archenemy, narrowly escaping defeat. This was the predetermined foreordained plan of Almighty God from eternity past. God, Who knew all things before they took place, looked down through the corridors of time, knowing the desolation sin would bring, decided not to leave man as he was, but determined instead to send His own Son as a ransom for many. The Lamb of God, slain from before the foundations of the world, as Revelation 13:8 tells us.
God would never have undertaken such an operation without knowing it would be successful. Isaiah 55:11 says, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Generally, we apply that passage to the written Word of God, the Bible, but it has no less application to the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ, His Son! As the Living Word of God, Jesus does not return to the glory of Heaven void, but having accomplished what the Father pleased! Hebrews tells us that after Jesus accomplished the Father’s eternal purpose, He then sat down at the Father’s right hand.
God’s love was not daring, it was directed. It was not carefree, it was crucified. God’s love was not reckless, it was redemptive.
When we worship God we should be mindful of His majesty and glory and we are obligated to heed what we say, lest it offend the Holy One, our King. I, for one, cannot “worship” using such loose language to describe God. May the church ever say, “Anathema,” to any such wrong-headed thinking!
The following quote from Ligoner Ministries might be a good directive for you as you consider your worship of the Lord. “Augustine often spoke of the gravitas of worship, the seriousness of mind that we must have when we enter into God’s presence. We worship a weighty Lord, so we must always consider whether the worship we offer is light or weighty. Does our worship reflect the full significance of all of God’s attributes, or does it treat Him merely as our “best pal”? To glorify God is to give Him the honor He is due, so let us never offer anything less to Him.”
To that I say a weighty, “Amen!”
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NKJV)
 Full text of the song and the author’s explanation: https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/coryasbury/recklesslove.html
 Baptist Hymnal (Nashville: Convention Press, 1956), #96.