Is God’s Love Really Reckless? (Song Analysis)

Released earlier this year, “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury, Caleb Culver, and Ran Jackson is probably the fastest growing song in Christian music right now. It’s a worshipful song about the passionate love of God.

If you’re not familiar with it yet, here are the chorus lyrics:

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God (yeah)

Lyrical controversy

The writers use three words to describe the love of God: “Overwhelming,” “never-ending,” and “reckless.” The first two are featured in many worship songs. “Reckless,” however, is not as common, especially when referring to God’s love. There is quite a bit of controversy over the song because of this one word.

Is it ok to use the word reckless? Is it irreverent? Is God’s love really reckless?
Let’s first take a look at the definition.

Merriam-Webster defines reckless as “marked by lack of proper caution, careless of consequences.”

The argument against the use of the word is as follows: How can God, the Divine Creator of order out of disorder, love in a careless way? God is very intentional and deliberate—not reckless at all.

The songwriter’s explanation

Cory Asbury, the artist and songwriter, explains:

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 regard 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.

As an artist, Cory chose a word that expressed his amazement not only for God’s love, but for God’s eagerness to pour out his love upon us.

In his book The Prodigal God, Tim Keller writes of the same characteristic of God that Cory Asbury is talking about.

In this story the father represents the Heavenly Father Jesus knew so well. St. Paul writes: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses” (2 Corinthians 5:19—American Standard Version). Jesus is showing us the God of Great Expenditure, who is nothing if not prodigal toward us, his children. God’s reckless grace is our greatest hope, a life-changing experience […].

Should you lead “Reckless Love”?

Some will be comfortable leading the song, while others may avoid it because of the potential for misinterpretation. In the body of Christ, there is plenty of room to disagree over convictions like these and not be at relational odds with one another (see Romans 14). We can live in beautiful unity and fellowship with one another regardless of our stance on this non-primary issue of the faith.

If you do choose to lead the song, Jake Gosselin (creator of Churchfront, a resource for worship and creative ministry) has a helpful tip for introducing it. He suggests providing a little context for the word “reckless,” perhaps by mentioning the  three parables in Luke 15 (lost sheep, lost coin, and prodigal son).

God invites us to sing a new song to Him. As imperfect people, there’s no way for us to write a perfect song. But let’s answer His invitation by writing and singing new worship songs in response to His great love.
Oh sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
— Psalm 96:1–2
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Written by
Matthew Boffey

Matthew Boffey (MDiv, Trinity International University) is the pastor of worship at Christ Church Bellingham. He is also editor-in-chief of Ministry Team magazine, has edited several books, and has written for several blogs and publications, including Relevant online, the Logos blog, and the Faithlife blog.

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Written by Matthew Boffey