Reckless Love (The Good, Bad & Ugly)

By S.C. Shaw

I need to start with a disclaimer. These are my opinions about this song and do not reflect my churches or many other opinions. I am writing this more out of educational purposes. I want us all the be thinking about every song we sing about and to our God. None are perfect, but some are better than others. With each of these blogs, I will be trying to layout my opinion scripturally. Enjoy!

I started a series of blogs that will look into various worship songs and talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of what we are singing in church. With that being said, I don’t want these blogs to be seen as a high and mighty naysayer giving his opinion. So let me say this, most of these songs we sing and will continue to sing in church. I may change or add things to have a clear conscience about leading them, but not all are “all bad”, but I feel the need to give a voice to the unclear.

First and foremost we must always ask the questions: “How does this song help the Word of God dwell richly within me?”And, “Does this song glorify God in Biblical truth?”

Reckless Love (The Good, the Bad, the Ugly) Cory Asbury

Lyrics in full

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

(Chorus)

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

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

(Chorus)

Bridge:

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

(Chorus)

This is a song that has been well disputed in the Christian world since the day it came out in 2018. It has been the subject of many conversations and social media blasts because it deserves to be. Not because of the greatness of it, but because of the need for clarity in it.

I remember I didn’t like this song the first time I heard it because it was weak theologically and unclear biblically. I am one that believes that all corporate congregational worship songs should follow a certain guideline. That guideline being able to answer this simple question; Does this song “Let the word of Christ dwell in me richly?” I know even that statement can be up for interpretation. Let’s start there.

First of all, here’s the whole verse, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” Ephesians 5:19. There aren’t many verses in the Bible that talk about worship in the style of singing. At least not in the order of command or instructions on how to execute and guidelines for a corporate worship song. However, we are told to worship in “Spirit and in truth” John 4:24.  And contextually, the Bible leaves no room for less than excellent worship to God. So we must, as leaders in the church and even part of the church body, strive to be as intentional as we can to be God-honoring, Christ exulting and Holy Spirit empowered in everything we do. Unfortunately, I fear we are more driven by comfort, habit, and survival.

Let me explain.

Comfort is easy for just that reason, it’s comfortable. It takes thought, planning and effort to step out of the easy and comfortable place we find ourselves in each week.

Habit comes alongside of “comfort”. Habit is taking what we are comfortable with and letting autopilot take over. This is a terrible place to be when we have the Gospel of God to proclaim.

And survival is what every person on a Sunday morning experiences at some point if not the main point. When we are in survival mode we are showing up and trying to get through the day. “There’s much more to be concerned with than this Sunday morning meeting” Is easy to tell ourselves. That means if you’re part of the church staff or part of the gathered body, we all experience this. Our goal here is to be intentional enough to experience this as little as possible. To be preparing our hearts and minds all week, to come together on the Lord’s day and experience the multitude of blessings that are given and received.

I bring all this up because this isn’t an issue concerning a less than an accurate song. It has to do with a mindset for Christ and desiring God enough to long for faithful service in a powerful way to aid His children in being in awe of Him more and more. The song at hand is lacking in many ways but has some strengths as well. Let’s start positive.

The Good:

I have lead this song once in my 15 years of leading music at church. It was for a youth program. I threw it in as I was trying to show my heart to submit to my pastor and play more popular worship songs. This is not my strong suit, but as I grow in Christ I want to be more and more like Christ and submission is a big one. Turns out the night I lead this song was a very powerful moment. I was surprised. I did change the bridge to an old hymn, which made me feel better about playing it and helped the clarity of the song in a biblical mindset. The song is written very congregationally which is its strongest point. But since then I have had a growing concern about this song. I have been silent for a couple years now but must start sharing my convictions. So let us tear this one open for a bit.

Reckless Love (The Good, the Bad, the Ugly)

First verse:

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

(This is a beautiful thought of the mightiness of our God who has created us and is sovereign over us since before we were created anything.)

The Bad:

(Chorus):

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

(I’m on board with the overwhelming thought of God’s love. In fact, everything we ponder about God should be overwhelming. There is never a time to see and behold God in any way and say, “cool.” God is weighty, big and awesome. When we get to “never-ending” though I have issues. I can see how God’s love at times can seem reckless to us because Gods ways are higher than our ways. And Gods love is indeed never-ending for His children. But much of the time Gods love is quite simple and clear, not seeming reckless at all.)

Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

(I do appreciate the main idea here, of God seeks us, not, we chase God, which is a popular theme of some unhelpful worship songs. God seeks His children and saves them even as they are pursuing sin. And even after our conversion we still are prone to wonder. But once we have trusted in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are found, never to be lost again. Sure, even the redeemed can experience a time of falling back or being caught up in various sins for a time, but God can never lose the “one’s” He has chosen to save. And that slip of sin does not last forever. Christ Himself is sustaining His people and He is mighty to save. Plus I’m not convinced the majority of Christians would even get the reference of “the 99”.)  

I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away

(Again, love this thought. This is the most biblical you can get. The wretchedness of man and the holiness of God. That is the Gospel! We can do nothing to earn it and we certainly don’t deserve it. “You give Yourself away” is one of those grey lines. It’s not technically wrong, but it seems wrong focused on the context of the song. As if the driving power of Gods love is “us.” We are not the main thing to God, God is the main thing to God. He does all for His own glory first and foremost. That’s the main thing wring in this song. There’s no sense of the glory 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

(Again, solid verse. Glorifying God in His greatness and not ours.)

(Chorus)

The Ugly:

Bridge:

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

(The bridge is less than wanting. I see the point trying to be made here but it wasn’t given enough time or care to stay biblical. The song strays from the biblical point. The glory appears to be to God still but the focus is clearly, “We are so precious and important, God cares only for us and nothing else.” The biblical reality is that God is all-powerful, mighty, glorious, perfect, holy, never changing and sufficient without any one of us ever adding or giving Him anything. On top of that, the most important thing to God is His own glory. This is what drives everything about Him. It drives everything He does. His glory is an attribute of His attributes. He isn’t most concerned with us. We aren’t first on His mind. He is. In fact, the first name we get for God is “I am” in Genesis 3:14. He is saying, “I Am everything that is important. I Am the first and the last, the beginning and the end. The King of kings and the Lord of lords. I am what I glorify above all else. I seek my own glory before all” (Writers commentary). This can be hard to hear, but for the child of God, this is where we get our assurance and security. God’s glory is so important because nothing can break His character, His will, plan, goodness, holiness or love for His chosen. What else could be placed before Gods glory? Nothing, hallelujah! This jealousy He has for His own is what gives us eternal life and hope for everything. So, to minimize all this to “kicking down walls, because He loves us more than anything,” is not ok.)

I know a lot has been said, but unfortunately, I heard the writer of this song explain his meaning behind it, and that’s what made me ban it from my own playlist. Here are a few things he said about his song.

Cory Asbury – “We are not saying God himself is reckless, he’s not crazy. We are saying the way he loves is. He’s utterly unconcerned with the consequences in regards with His own safety, comfort and well being. God’s love is childlike. Might I suggest it’s sometimes downright ridiculous? His love bankrupted heaven, for you and for me. His love doesn’t consider himself first, it isn’t self-serving. He isn’t concerned with what he’ll gain or lose by putting himself on the line. He simply puts himself out there on the off chance you might look back at him in return. His love isn’t cautious. He gives himself away, again, and again and again and again and time and time again. I don’t care what it costs me, I lay my life on the line as long as I get their hearts.” 

If the problems aren’t obvious right off the bat then let me help. He starts correctly. Just like his song, there are some good, but unclear and unbiblical parts as well.

Here’s the breakdown,

“God is not reckless and He’s not crazy,” that’s true.

But “His love is”?K…? Everything about God is God. Only God is love, light, patient, glorious, just, etc. God defines all things.

Now we get a god that is not in the bible. The god he is explaining sounds pathetic and needy.

“Unconcerned with the consequences”?

God has had eternity planned and is sovereign over every aspect since before time began. Neither of these claims is backed up biblically. If anything you believe is contrary to scripture, you’re wrong. The Bible itself is tested against itself and is still perfect.

His love bankrupted heaven…” 

Again, what a small god. As if God ceased to be God or was somehow paralyzed for a time because of Christ work on the cross. The God that created and sustains all things for all time is bankrupt for us? By no means!

“His love doesn’t concern himself, it isn’t self-serving.” 

That is blasphemous! God is mainly concerned about His own glory above all things! That was His main point at the cross as well as His point today in everything He does. This is the God of the Bible. And the believer is comforted in this truth because nothing can compare to His glory. It is because of His love for His own glory we are saved! What else should be above it? (If you would like more info on what the glory of God is, please don’t hesitate to contact me. This is the most important thing for a Christian to grasp)

“He isn’t concerned with what he’ll gain or lose…”

God cannot gain nor lose. He is almighty, never changing, perfect and eternal. And here’s one of the worst statements ever, and unfortunately this is the kind of theme or thought pattern behind most contemporary worship songs.

He simply puts himself out there on the off chance you might look back at him in return.”

This is where the importance of understanding of election, predestination and God’s chosen people. All essentially mean the same thing, which is, God has chosen whom He will redeem since before the foundations of the world. This is a whole different argument and we can’t get into now. However, you see the doctrinal error when this isn’t a proper understanding. God looks pathetic and weak in this context. What a needy desperate God that showers people with love in hopes that some would return it? Not at all!

“His love isn’t cautious.” 

God doesn’t take chances and is never out of control or surprised. Then this explanation goes on the with the “gives himself away again”(repeated too many times). This could mean how God is always forgiving His children when they repent. But with the number of unbiblical parts so far I can’t give him that kind of credit.

One section I didn’t put in here was Cory saying “God will go after the 1 sheep every time even is he loses the 99.” 

Nothing about that statement makes sense or is biblical. Nothing can snatch God’s people from His hand, John 10:18. The ones in which He has chosen are being sustained by Him, therefore, can never and will never fall away. Jesus Himself is pleading and interceding for His people to this day, 2 Timothy 4:18.

And lastly, “I lay my life down as long as I get their hearts.”

What a demeaning and sad way to explain the death of Christ. God is after your heart, sure, but God owns everything, including you and everything about you. He knows who He died for and who would be raised up with Christ and be raised up as a new creation by the power of God and then live the rest of eternity by and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Actually, not sure how the Holy Spirit’s role changes when we get to heaven, anyway.

So what do we do with a song like this? Some try to change words or add things to it like it did, but we must stop and ask, “why?” Why so much work to play this song, or songs like it? Because you sound really good at singing it? Because your church loves it? Because you want to be relevant to people? None of these reasons are biblical and we are playing on dangerous ground when we give in to this way of thinking. There are so many great songs to choose from. Branch out and seek the hundreds of great songs written well and supremely biblical to truly strengthen your church rather than stretching to make an emotionally driven song work because you perform it well. We can all get complacent when all we are hearing are these types of songs. Seek out other, less well-known bands and music teams. There is some fantastic music being created that is not being heard.

With all this being said I feel I must mention this; the main worship team at my church plays this song. I have mentioned that I have played this song before and would again if my pastor asked. These are my convictions about the faithfulness in our music in church. I am not the final word nor think that I should have any authority over you because after all, this is my opinion.

Now, read through the words of this other song. This is the clear dynamics and distinction between amazing and average or false. Note here, there are many old and new hymns I could throw down, but to keep this all contemporary let’s choose something newer and in the style of the current culture.

Grace and Peace (Sovereign Grace Music)

Performed by (The Shaws) Live Version

Grace and Peace

 Grace and peace, oh how can this be

For lawbreakers and thieves, for the worthless, the least

You have said that our judgment is death

For all eternity without hope, without rest

 (Chorus)

Oh, what an amazing mystery, what an amazing mystery

That Your grace has come to me

 

Grace and peace, oh how can this be?

The matchless King of all paid the blood price for me

Slaughtered lamb, what atonement You bring!

The vilest sinner’s heart can be cleansed, can be free

(Chorus)

 

Grace and peace, oh how can this be?

Let songs of gratefulness ever rise, never cease

Loved by God and called as a saint

My heart is satisfied in the riches of Christ

(Chorus)

Bridge:

Oh, what an amazing love I see, what an amazing love I see

That Your grace has come to me, Your grace has come!

(Chorus)

 

Did you catch a difference in focus, reference, and reverence? I have tested this kind of thing on myself on many occasions. I begin to make rationales for what I would like to do and then get set straight by something solid like these words. The focus is on God and His greatness, not our desperate needs or emotional desires.

Before the “naysayer” comments begin. Let me say this. There is nowhere in the Bible that is written to the individual. The New Testament was written to the church. On top of that, when we are given a charge and or encouragement in corporate worship, it is always given with a reason and point for that charge. God speaks action. And that reason is always God-focused, not our desires or emotional intentions towards Christ. Very few times does the bible refer to us loving God. But, it mentions God’s love for us hundreds of times. Does this mean we are not special? No, this means all glory to God because He is our everything, our all and deserves all. Our only good is Christ in us.

Here is a blog I did after attending Bob Kauflin’s “Worship Intensive.” Some great take a ways and very on point with what I am talking about.

Worship Intensive Blog

Closing.

Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Music StevenShaw.co

www.TheShawsMusic.com

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