God’s Love: Reckless or Righteous?

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, I don’t deserve it, still You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
(Reckless Love – Cory Asbury, Caleb Culver, and Ran Jackson)

I’ve been watching stations around the country add this song, slowly, gradually. . .carefully.

We are that, aren’t we, in this industry? Careful not to push our tightly defined verbal or sonic limits. We say passed away, not died. We re-word that breaking news story…reality is too intense for our audience.

A particular song might be great, but it’s not safe, so we’d better add another instead.  We do the math: careful = safe, and safe = donor support.  Because of the realities involved in what we do, is it possible we’ve made the further mistake of confusing our calling, both professionally and personally, with a call to minimal risk-taking, maximal carefulness?  God is righteous, we reason, and righteous = careful.

So when we hear a lyric like, Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, our suspicion is triggered.

Ironically, if you changed the lyric to, Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, careful love of God, not only would the poetry of the song be ruined, so would its theology.

Biblically, you can say a lot of things about God, but one thing you cannot do is to domesticate him, make him safe. David’s men tried to do this when they transported the ark in 2 Samuel 6:5-8, and God killed them. (Sorry. They passed away.) Why? They broke the second commandment, turned the ark into their idol, and tried to protect their God. Were their actions reckless or—honestly—as you read that passage does it feel more like God is being reckless, offing them just for trying to keep his box intact?

We could cite other examples, but the prime one is the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15).  Who is more prodigal, the younger son or the Father?  In Prodigal God, Tim Keller challenges us to re-think our assumptions:

The word “prodigal” does not mean “wayward”. . . It means to spend until you have nothing left. This term is therefore as appropriate for describing the father in the story as his younger son. The father’s welcome to the repentant son was literally reckless, because he refused to “reckon” or count his sin against him or demand repayment. This response offended the elder son and most likely the local community.

The idea of “reckless love,” then, takes us directly to the heart of the gospel. I’d say the song, Reckless Love, can do the same. The image of the verses is of God pursuing the undeserving one, the lost sheep, kicking down walls, tearing down lies. Think about the message the non-religious listener receives, the message of a God who

through the sacrifice of his son Jesus—“you paid it all for me”—fights to win his foes, going outside the bounds of not only social propriety but all human respectability; God the Son exiled naked on a cross outside the city so she, an outsider, can be brought in.

In the parable, the righteous older brother is offended. In the process, sinners like the younger brother and those listening to Jesus teach are invited in.

I think about this in my own life. Where would I be without, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God?  When did I become the older brother and, like a Pharisee, start trying to domesticate God? And why does this prodigal God keep coming after me, forgiving me, giving me an inheritance with saints? Seems kind of reckless to me.

I want my listeners to ask the same questions.

Bill Martin
Co-Host of The Morning Cruise
The Joy FM

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