Cory Asbury’s song, Reckless Love, has created quite a stir in describing God’s love as reckless. Reckless is a strong word, an adjective with the idea of “not thinking or caring about the consequences” (Oxford Dictionary). We think, perhaps, of reckless driving, which is both thoughtless and dangerous. Describing God’s love as reckless, for some, seems…well, reckless.
The tension centers around the question of perception and reality. Is God’s love reckless, or is that how is love is perceived by some? Is God actually reckless or does His love appear reckless? Is it appropriate or wise to describe God as reckless? In order to grapple with the question, I’ll call the Apostle Paul to the stand. In the Bible (1 Corinthians 1:25) he wrote, “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” So, Paul, why did you use such provocative, controversial language? Are you saying God is foolish?
Well, I’d encourage you to look at my flow of thought there, Roger. I had just noted that Jesus crucified looked foolish to Greeks and weak to Jews. When Jesus died on a cross, he appeared weak to some and foolish to others, but it was an extraordinary counter-intuitive expression of strength and wisdom. However, we need to be reminded that on that haunting stormy Friday afternoon, Jesus looked like a powerless pathetic fool, and He was mocked as such.
Thank you, Paul, for your helpful explanation.
Many years ago, Michael Card echoed the words of the Apostle Paul with his song about Jesus, entitled, “God’s Own Fool.” That song’s edgy title and words created a similar discomfort to “Reckless Love,” especially with the call that we should be fools like Jesus. But that is exactly the language Paul used when he said, “we are fools for Christ.” (1 Corinthians 4:10, NIV) The reality is that Jesus looked foolish, and following Him regardless of cost looks foolish as well. The language of perception startles us, begging us to pay attention.
It’s significant that the words foolish and reckless have several common synonyms: incautious, ill-considered, ill-advised, foolhardy, harebrained and mindless. Those words graphically describe how God’s love and Christian love were and are perceived.
The love of Jesus was absolutely seen as reckless. Eating meals with traitors and thieves and prostitutes appeared reckless to religious leaders. A meal with people signaled acceptance, which had the danger of encouraging such despicable behavior. When Jesus described God as a Father who would run(unthinkable) to embrace and celebrate a dishonorable son who had ravaged the family name and fortune, this was galling not only to the older son, but to many people hearing the story. A shepherd leaving 99 sheep to go find one lost sheep. Reckless. I could go on.
There is evidence that Jeffrey Dahmer, one of the world’s most sinister serial killers, embraced the forgiveness of Jesus before he was executed. The idea that God would ever forgive someone like Dahmer is considered reckless or worse. And yet Jesus extended forgiveness and a welcome into an eternal home with the Father to a convicted criminal as they both were being executed. What? Allow someone to kill and cheat and steal and rape, and then extend forgiveness to them on their deathbed? Unthinkable. Preposterous grace like that encourages evil. That’s mindless. Dangerous. Reckless.
Jesus calls His followers to a love that is reckless. Take up your cross. What???!! Reckless. During some deadly world plagues, when people were fleeing the urban centers out of fear for their lives, some Christians were known to stay behind and care for the ill and dying. Some of the Christians died as a result. Reckless. Like Jesus. I know of missionary couples who have gone (sometimes with young children) into dangerous jungles or slums or places with limited medical facilities. Their decision has been described by some as irresponsible, foolish, reckless, even criminal. They call it love, following the call and example of Jesus, whom they love. Loving like Jesus did, and who Jesus did, looks reckless.
When God controversially describes the crucifixion of Jesus as foolishness, it has the ironic effect of emphasizing the glory and wonder of God’s wisdom and love. “God’s Own Fool” is on my Spotify playlist, and every time I listen to it, I’m graphically reminded of God’s brilliance and the weight of His call to follow regardless of the cost. I think this is why “Reckless Love” inspires such deep worship for many. Rather than indict God, it celebrates Him. “Reckless” has the ironic effect of enhancing God’s glorious costly love, inspiring deep gratitude.
Is God reckless? He’s as reckless as He is foolish.
[feature photo by Skeeze at Pixabay.com]
Wow! Well written with incredible insight and challenge. When we moved to New England back in 1990 with 2 small children and one on the way, many thought we were not being wise as well…maybe even irresponsible. I would venture to say, many on the other side thought very differently about that decision. The kingdom of God can never be boxed in to our mind’s understanding. Thanks Roger.