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.
AUTHORS UPDATE (3/16/2018)
Over 14,000 people have viewed this blog post over the past 30 days. It continues to fascinate me how much curiosity and controversy this song (and this blog post) have sparked. For me personally, this has now become an interesting experiment to see how nasty Christians can be in the comments section.
Yes, I was polarizing when writing this post. You will either hate me or love me for it. Yes, I used the word “Pharisee” to describe people who question the intent of this song and the writer’s heart. Was it politically correct or me to do this? Probably not. But honestly, the outrage I see in the comments section of this post kinda proves my point.
When looking at scripture, you know who got really angry about the reckless nature of God’s love? The Pharisees. You know who thought Jesus was reckless for hanging out with sinners, samaritans, lepers, and women? The Pharisees. You know who got the most angry and offended in theological debates? The Pharisees. You know who got caught up in the minutiae of doctrine and religion? The Pharisees. You know who got the most offended by the message of the Gospel? The Pharisees.
There are valid arguments against the use of reckless to describe God’s love. Some folks have left some very thoughtful counter-arguments below and I am grateful. The internet is a place for free discussion, which I why I haven’t deleted any comments or disabled comments, even when people make a personal attack on my character and calling.
While I’m sorry for causing any discord among Christians by writing the blog post above, I am not sorry for calling out Pharisaical tendencies within the church.
Finally, I only expect this update to make some people more angry, pouring only more gasoline on the fire. That’s why I don’t spend time arguing below in the comments. The arguing will never end on such a divisive topic.
But go ahead. Leave your 5 page essay down below on why I am wrong, Cory is wrong, and everyone who sings this song is going to hell. It’s gonna accomplish so much in the greater scheme of things (said in a very sarcastic tone.)
The only thing it’s actually going to accomplish is prove the point that Christians are better at arguing over the dumbest issues rather than reaching the lost and making disciples.