Every now and again a song will come out that takes the Christian world by storm. The latest mega-hit is “Reckless Love.” It’s a good tune. The Bethel version sounds great. I just spent over 40 minutes watching Anthony Brown and a young adult choir doing a more gospel type version of the song and I’m not gonna lie, I felt the Spirit of God as they were singing it.
But I’m a lyrics guy. I’m also theologically minded. So when I hear something in a song that doesn’t quite sit right I tend to focus in on it; sometimes to my detriment. I’m sure everyone knows where I’m going with this. I’m not the first to point it out or discuss it. In fact, John Piper addressed it on his Ask Pastor John podcast a while back. It’s the word “reckless” in the song. Why is it there and how does it function?
I’ve heard various explanations, one being that God will do whatever it takes to get to his people. Okay, that sounds good, and I agree, but does that equate to recklessness? Let’s take the definition that comes up with a simple Google search:
Now I want us to think about this for a second… Have you thought about it? Does the God we know, love, and worship fit the description of the adjective “reckless”? Does God act without thinking? Let’s look to a piece of Paul’s glorious run-on sentence in Ephesians:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Eph 1:3–10)
Look at the language Paul uses to describe God’s actions here. He says that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Choosing requires intentionality. Doing it before the foundation of the world requires premeditation. Let’s continue… He says that we’ve been predestined to adoption as sons. Again, predestination requires premeditation and adoption requires intentionality. No one was ever adopted on accident or without thought. And he did this according to the purpose of his will. Folks, there was purpose in this! And it was according to his will! Paul speaks of wisdom and insight and a plan to unite all things in him in the fullness of time! This is the polar opposite of recklessness.
The crucifixion was not an act that was carried out with no thought to the consequences of the action. Likewise with the resurrection. God knew exactly what he was doing. He still does. His love is many things, but reckless is not one of them. There is a way that God can do whatever it takes to get to his people without it being reckless. For God to cast light on a shadow or climb a mountain or tear down a lie, as the song says, he does not need to do so recklessly. He’s God! Leaving the 99 sheep to rescue the 1 is not a reckless act. It’s very thoughtful. It’s very intentional.
We could go through Scripture from Old Testament to New and point out example after example of God’s divine plan in action. How he had things set up that seemed one way to us but in the grand scheme of things were really another way altogether (think about Joseph being sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape, and unjustly imprisoned only to be called upon by Pharaoh to interpret a dream and rise to a level of prominence that would allow him to save his family from a sure death that would have resulted from famine). The point is that of all of God’s attributes, recklessness is not one of them.
Now let me say this: I like the song. In fact, after hearing the version I heard this morning I’d go so far as to say that I like it a lot. I just don’t like that one adjective. I’d prefer to say “endless” or “precious” or “relentless” love of God. I think that they’re all theologically correct. Endless and precious wouldn’t change the cadence of the chorus at all and relentless would change it minimally. I think for the point that the song is making relentless makes more sense than reckless. God will stop at nothing to get the one sheep that goes astray. He’s relentless in his love for us; never letting up. But that jives with God’s thoughtful, intentional, well planned out initiative for saving his people.