Why We Won't Sing "Reckless Love" at LHAC

I've had a few people from my church ask me if we would be singing "Reckless Love" by Cory Asbury, so I wanted to address this briefly.

For those of you who don't know, this song has grown quite popular in recent months. It was written by Bethel Music Collective alumn Cory Asbury, and features the controversial lyric in the chorus,

"Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine."

The lyric raised some controversy because of the usage of the word "reckless" in reference to God. 

This is what Cory has said in response to all the controversy.

"Many have asked me for clarity on the phrase 'reckless love'. Many have wondered why I'd use a 'negative' word to describe God...When I use the phrase 'the reckless love of God', I'm not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. What I mean is his: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of HIs actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being. His love isn't crafty or slick. It's not cunning or shred. In fact, all things considered, it's quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous."

Regardless of the controversy caused by this song, the song is still being sung in many churches across the world. The response has been two fold. In a recent Christianity Today article, many theological scholars offered their concerns with the use of the word "reckless".  However, in an article by Andre Henry of the popular Christian magazine RELEVANT, he not only supports the usage of the term but he also goes so far as to praise Asbury, saying he wished the song went further into the idea of recklessness.

For me, the issue is less with the word and if it is "negative" or not - words and meanings change depending on context and culture. One could also point out the errors in Asbury's internal logic, like how claiming the phrase "the reckless love of God" does not refer to God but only His love, as if somehow God's love and His identity are separate. One could also point out the problem with calling God's love ridiculous, or that God is unconcerned with His actions, whereas the Bible teaches us that God is HIGHLY concerned with His actions, especially in the context of Christ as the cross (Eph. 1:3-6; Rom. 3:21-26; Phil. 2:6-11).

All that said, a greater issue remains for me that no one seems to have addressed yet.

The BIG issue I have is this:

Does the Bible ever describe God's love as "reckless", and if not, how does the Bible use the word "reckless"?

In all of it's usages, never, not once, in the Bible is the word "reckless" used to refer to God OR His love.

God's love is simply never referred to as "reckless". Ever.

However, even this is not my biggest concern! If Cory was only guilty of utilizing a unfavourable word that modernly is used with a negative connotation to refer to the love of God, I would have less of an issue. 

My big concern is this - in every instance, the Bible uses the term "reckless" to refer to sinners.

There is NEVER an instance to where the term "reckless" is used with a positive connotation. It's used exclusively to refer to sinful behaviour. In the Bible, "recklessness" is never a godly virtue.

In Proverbs 14:16, the term reckless is used to refer to a fool. 

"One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless."

In Acts 19:36, the term is being used to refer to men who have captured Paul's companions and are wishing to harm them.

"35 And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, 'Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? 36 Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash.'"

In 2 Tim. 3, Paul uses the word while referring to the sinful behaviours of a generation that is godless and has abandoned God. In fact, this also has in mind the behaviour of false teachers!

"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God..."

In the famous Parable of the Prodigal Son, in Luke 15, Jesus uses the term to refer to sinful living the son engaged in after taking his inheritance early.

"12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living."

There are other examples, but I think the point is made clearly. The Bible does not EVER use the term "reckless" in reference to God, but in fact to sinners who are rash, disobedient children squandering their money, and pagans and false teachers who have abandoned God in favour for the world.

Therein lies the reason why we will never sing this song at Living Hope Alliance Church - we will not sing songs that use lyrics that refer to God with language that the Bible exclusively uses to refer to sinners and pagans. 

There is a trend within modern-worship music which concerns me, and unfortunately that trend leans towards a total abandonment of solid Biblical hermeneutics and theology. Worship song writers have grown lazy in their theological work, and they forget that they bear a great responsibility of teaching as part of leading worship.

There MUST be a return to solid biblical theology in our worship music, and a ruthless examination of our lyrics in the light of scripture. Unfortunately, this is what Cory Asbury is guilty of - not using "a negative word" to refer to God, but using a word that the Bible exclusively uses towards sinners as a rebuke.

It would take a simplE word study through the Bible to realize that the choice of "reckless" was indeed a "reckless" choice. 

The point is simple - the Bible not only refuses to refer to God's love as "reckless", but it actually exclusively refers to sinners and pagans as "reckless". It is an offence to God to use a word that is saved and set apart for the sinner and the godless.

I am firmly against putting on the lips of my church family a song which refers to God with language that the Bible uses only for the wicked. No matter how catchy a song is.

2 Tim. 3:4 speaks about recklessness as a sign of godlessness.

Proverbs 14:16 uses recklessness as a sign of foolishness.

In my opinion, our God is not a godless fool.