This article is a brief review of the song “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury. It has become increasingly popular in churches over the past few months in late 2017 into early 2018. It has also raised a lot of questions regarding the word “Reckless” in describing God’s love. I’ll unpack why fussing about this word choice is making a mountain out of a molehill (something religious people are experts at accomplishing).
Most of my articles are not polarizing, but I feel strongly about this topic. As a worship leader, I’ve dealt first hand with people who think they are being theologically discerning about lyrics in worship songs. They put up a stink to pastoral leadership until the song in question goes away. I try to avoid these churches like the plague.
I also do not like to flash letters after my name, especially since I think higher education is becoming a joke. But I do have a Master of Divinity from Denver Seminary. It’s a well-respected, conservative, evangelical school. So I’m not some lone liberal blogger spouting uninformed theological opinions. I’ve read a lot of books, written a lot of papers on the Bible and theology that grant me at least a bit of authority in this area.
Okay, now for the song review and worship leading tips.
I heard the song for the first time in the summer of 2017 when playing bass for the Red Rocks Young Adults service. Kory Miller, our worship leader, picked the song and I’m so glad he introduced it to us. It wasn’t even officially released yet. I think someone pirated it off of Bethel TV and uploaded it to Youtube.
It turns out, the song is a hit, and they released the single for it not long ago. I think this is going to be a standard in many worship sets for a few years to come.
The meaning of the song is straightforward.
Verse 1 highlights that God created us and gives us life. Verse 2 focus on how God redeems us--despite the fact we were his enemies and rebellious in our sinfulness. God is good. God is kind. These verses are simple, but I love how Cory crafted these lyrics. “When I was your foe, still your love fought for me.” “When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me.”
The bridge continues to emphasize the theme of God’s love using the word reckless. It paints the picture of God pursuing his children like Liam Neeson in Taken who goes to the most extreme measures to rescue his daughter and kill the bad guys.
Is God’s Love Reckless?
The chorus focuses on how incredible it is that God loves us and pursues us. The term “Reckless” has gotten a lot of attention. As usual, when a gifted songwriter uses a bit of language that is not typical, all of the Pharisees in the church come out of the woodwork and make a loud fuss. If you disagree with the use of the word “Reckless” and feel offended by that last sentence, please check out this cool app.
In all seriousness, there are a few reasons why I have no issue with the term “Reckless” in describing God’s love.
The definition - (of a person or their actions) without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action. While in most contexts this song has negative connotations (reckless driving) the word reckless itself does not necessarily carry negative connotations on its own.
Word meaning changes and evolves - It’s common for words and associated connotations to change and evolve overtime. Maybe it wouldn’t have been appropriate to use “reckless” to describe God’s love a decade or two ago, but words and their associated connotations are adaptable to their time and culture.
Biblical support - Cory wrote this song with the parables in Luke 15 in mind. Do you know how “reckless” it was for the Father to receive the Prodigal Son back into his house! He did not care about the consequences of what other people thought of this act of love. Same thing with the parable of the lost sheep. Why would a shepherd not care about the safety of the 99 to go find the one? Oh, and another example of biblical support is 1 Corinthians 1:18, where a guy named Paul writes the message of the cross is “foolishness” to the world. You know what word is similar to “foolishness”? Reckless.
I honestly cannot believe I just wasted 10 minutes of my time needing to argue why reckless is an okay description of God’s love in this context. I think if more Christians were more distressed about reaching their lost neighbors with the gospel of Jesus instead of putting up a fuss about songs like this, the world would be a much better placed with more saved people.
But nope. We still battle our pharisaical and religious tendencies.
Obviously, you know how I feel about this song. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t spend time reviewing it. If you feel offended that Cory used the word “reckless” to describe God’s love, go read your Bible--and more specifically, Luke 15.
Also, read what Cory wrote about this on his Facebook page. Here is an excerpt from what he said:
"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 this: 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 shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return."
I don’t know about you but the fact that the God of the universe cares about me, loves me and is willing to give up his Son for me, that’s pretty darn reckless. People will complain about it--especially in a church full of baby boomers wanting hymns. To help ward off potential conflict, make sure you introduce this song and give “reckless” a bit of context. Maybe even reference the three parables in Luke 15!
I've created a free guide for worship leaders called 25 things to say or pray in worship. In the guide, I include a script for what I would say to introduce the song, Reckless Love to my congregation. You can download the guide by clicking the button below.
Tips for leading
Musically, this song is a winner. It’s catchy and singable for any congregation. It’s a 6/8 Bethel ballad, so it will make even the Grinch’s heart grow 10x larger. Seriously, I get choked up when I sing it. I also love the instrumentals in this song when the lead part is syncopated over the rest of the band. In my opinion, Bethel is the most innovate group in worship songwriting right now. Not only lyrically, but musically.
If you want to lead the song so it is comfortable for both men and women to sing the melody, then I recommend singing it in the key of D. You’ll be playing the progression Bm, A, G, D. It won’t sound as sexy as the recording in the key of F#, but on Sunday mornings you’re not trying to sell records. You want people to actually sing.
The only other musical tip I have for this song is to make sure your keyboardist or electric guitar player knows the lead part in the instrumentals. If that isn't doable, you could also just sing it with “oh’s.” But do make sure you have it in there because it’s awesome.
What are your thoughts and opinions on this song? Let me know in the comments!
AUTHORS UPDATE (02/12/18)
What was just a simple blog post I threw together in about 15 minutes a few months ago has turned into a firestorm below in the comments. Feel free to share you opinions on the song (it helps Google rankings of this post) but please know I will most likely not engage in a conversation. Don't take it personally. I just don't have the time or interest. The reactions to this post remind me why I do not write a Christian opinion blog. While you are free to add your 2 cents to the comments below, I'd encourage you to do something more worth your time than trying to convince others on the opposing side of this argument.