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Is God’s Love “Reckless”? Some Thoughts on a Popular Worship Song


Once again an extremely popular worship song is coming under scrutiny. This time it is Cory Asbury’s song, “Reckless Love.” We sing it regularly here at Bridgeway and I encourage you to do so as well.

I was more than a little surprised when a few people pushed back, wondering if it was biblically and theologically appropriate to speak of God’s love as “reckless.” Then I was informed that similar questions were being raised by others around the country. Some even suggested it was an insult to God to speak of his saving love in this way. So what should we do? Stop singing the song? No! In case you aren’t familiar with the lyrics, here they are:

Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me

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.

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me

There's no shadow You won't light up
Mountain You won't climb up
Coming after me
There's no wall You won't kick down
Lie You won't tear down
Coming after me

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

As I read (or sing) these lyrics it appears evident from them alone what the composer had in mind and why he would speak of God’s love as reckless. I take the word “reckless” to mean that God’s love defies all human categories of how love ought to operate and express itself. God loves sinners in the most unconventional and seemingly unsophisticated manner possible. His love is contrary to how we typically love one another. As Cory Asbury himself said in explaining the background to this song, God’s love for us isn’t crafty or slick or cunning. God isn’t concerned with what it might cost him in terms of his reputation among people. He isn’t concerned with the consequences that might come his way when those he loves don’t love him in return. God’s love is anything but cautious.

When Jesus chose to welcome into his presence and company both prostitutes and tax collectors (Luke 15:1) he knew the Pharisees were watching. He knew they would mock him and revile him and sling mud on his reputation. Why love people like that? What can they possibly do for you in return? Have you no regard, Jesus, for how this might come back to bite you?

It is at this point in Luke 15 that Jesus tells the parable about the one sheep that wandered from the fold. “What man of you,” asks Jesus, “does not leave the ninety-nine” and “go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?” Well, sadly, the answer is: probably a lot of men. Many, maybe most, would ignore the one who wandered off. That would seem to be the wise and prudent thing to do. Take care of the ninety-nine who weren’t dumb enough to stray.

To seek after the one and leave the ninety-nine seems so disproportionate. It seems so careless. For heaven’s sake, Lord, let the silly one go. After all, that’s what he/she deserves. You’ve got ninety-nine others who need your attention and care. A love that isn’t “reckless” might reason like that. But not Jesus. His love is of a different order.

All too often human love is conditional: if you will first love me, then I’ll love you back. But God’s love doesn’t operate in that way. It is reckless in the sense that he loves those who have done nothing to warrant or justify his affection. He loves those who “can’t earn it” and certainly “don’t deserve it.” Every time you try to squeeze God’s love into a human mold for what is acceptable and reasonable, he shatters it!

How many of you passionately and consistently love your enemies? Yet in this song we hear of a love that “fights” on behalf of the one who was God’s “foe”. Isn’t this what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 5? It was “while we were still weak” (Rom. 5:6a) that God loved us in Christ. God’s love isn’t reserved for the “strong” who can do things for him to merit his love and affection. He loved those who spit in his face and nailed him to a cross. Christ’s love was for the “ungodly” (Rom. 5:6b), not the righteous. Indeed, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). It was while “we were enemies” that God demonstrated his love for us (Rom. 5:10). Who among you loves like that?

Does that sound like the sort of love that you would expect? Or does it sound entirely unreasonable and even unwise? From my point of view, looking at things from a human perspective, I would describe someone who loved like that to be incredibly “reckless”! Aren’t they just asking for trouble?

Or consider the parable of the prodigal son. It was wholly contrary to all custom and rules of human behavior that a father would set aside his personal dignity and risk his reputation by running down the road to welcome home and to bless his wayward son. Talk about reckless! Talk about a love that couldn’t care less what others might think of the way it behaves!

All this is simply to say that God’s love for us doesn’t square up with our expectations or what we think is fitting and proper and wise. He shatters the mold! He breaks all the (human) rules for how love ought to act and on whom it ought to be showered. It even strikes us as dangerous that God would love people who continually fail him and resist him and consistently refuse to give him thanks. But that’s God for you! Such a reckless lover he is. And how eternally blessed we are for it.

So the next time you sing this song, or perhaps when you sing it for the first time, keep in mind that God’s way of loving isn’t always our way of loving (praise God for that!). His motivation and the manner in which that love comes to expression will shock you and take your breath away! If it doesn’t, you haven’t understood it. Just when I think that God has every reason in the world not to love me, he loves me anyway! Just when I think that his love ought to conform to my love or that his love should observe the same rules and regulations as mine, he turns everything on its head.

When I read about God’s love in Scripture and then consider how I, a hell-deserving sinner, have been the recipient of it, my initial reaction is to say: “God, I don’t mean to give you advice. After all, you’re infinitely wise. But this is nuts! You shouldn’t love people like me. It won’t reap the benefits you deserve. Surely you ought to love only those who first love you. Don’t take this personally, Lord, but you appear to be acting somewhat recklessly!”

God’s love typically comes to us without regard for how it makes God look in the eyes of sinful humanity. It colors outside the lines. It strikes us as foolish and ineffective. Yet such is the love of God for sinners like you and me: reckless, defiant, extraordinary, and determined to bring a blessing to its objects when all they deserve is condemnation.

And on top of it all, God’s love is “endless”. Not ours. We often stop loving as soon as the object of our devotion ceases to be lovely. We turn our affection away from the one who refuses to reciprocate. Not God. His love is endless, yes, and gloriously and majestically and graciously and sovereignly “reckless”!

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God!


God's character is not constructed out of our human perception of Him. To call anything that God does "reckless" is to impugn the very nature and character of God. He is Who He is regardless of how human's perceive Him. I would be insulting God by singing this song, not worshiping Him.

Thanks Sam. Sounds like much ado over nothing. If you take a bullet for someone it might well be called reckless. Jesus took a bullet for an entire world of losers.

I think the the old hymn continues:

And tho the road be rough and steep
I go to the desert to find My sheep
I go to the desert to find My sheep.

Deserts are dangerous places, even for the Son of God.

I don’t know, the lyrics aren’t really biblically solid in terms of there description of Christ’s pursuit. Jesus doesn’t run after us and pursue us, He comes to us and reveals Himself to us but if we reject Him he doesn’t keep coming til we are won over. In the gospels I see continually Jesus saying to follow Him and when people respond with something other than immediately yes, He proceeds to walk away and go to the next place YAHWEH directs Him. He also proceed to say that He would leave the 99 but that scripture is referenceing to the joy that Heaven has over one sinner repenting. It’s not to be taken as a metaphor or illustration for what Christ does to come after us. On a side not I love these articles and enjoy your ministry Sam Storms very much.

Thank you for this article. I was discussing this song with a co-worker who raised the question. He is a musician involved at his church and other music ministries. He liked the song, but wanted to make sure it is theologically solid. Your article helped us both understand better. You're article went even further to me to remind me of how completely incomprehensible God's Love truly is. It was little time of worship in my day. Thank You!

Thanks for defending this song, Sam. The very first time I heard it, I also sang it at Bridgeway. It stirred and moved me in all the ways the gospel does, bringing me to tears at how undeserving I am and how, beyond rationality, Jesus fights so absurdly for me anyway. Everytime I listen to it now, it does the same. When you addressed criticisms against it in that service, you emphasized the exact reasons it was written, the exact ways it captures the foolishness of the gospel, and the exact reasons Jesus has captured my loyalty. Praise God!

It's all I can think about! How great His affection is for me! I can't stop thinking about it! I can't stop being overwhelmed by it! I want to dance in worship because it is my response to His unfathomable, RECKLESS love that rescued me! AND He would delight in me expressing my gratitude in dance as an act of worship. My pastor said I could dance, and told me to....but that would be scary. Our congregation is super reserved!!

I've not come across the praise song. No matter how you cut it or put it, God's love can not be described as reckless, in the ordinary sense of the word, a word which dosen't sit within the ejusdem generis of all the other words you've used, to describe God's love. Reckless, is a reckless use of the word, in the context of the rest of the words in the song. There is an abandon to God's love, not a recklessness.

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