As I sing or listen to worship songs, I am reminded of Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman in John. He tells the woman that there will be a time when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. One of the clearest examples of where spirit and truth come together is through songs of praise. Therefore the lyrics of these songs are important because they offer glimpses of truth that move our spirits to sing with joy and gratitude. Lyrics can carry such theological depth that helps people to know God more clearly and deeply.
However, there are moments when I am listening to a song, and I hear lyrics that make me question their truthfulness. One lyric that has become prevalent in contemporary Christian music is the “reckless love of God”. In hearing songs on the reckless love of God, I wanted to see if it is biblical to attribute such a negative character to God’s love.
Does God not really care about the consequences of His love?
These were the questions that led me to Scripture to better understand God’s love.
Why do people attribute God’s love as being reckless?
Reasoning through these questions, I realized that from a human perspective, God’s love does seem very reckless. As we read the Bible, we see that God desires all people to be saved, dies on the cross for those people, and yet, he is still rejected. This seems like a blind devotion to a people who continue to hurt him and refuse all that he is. This kind of love is confusing and seems ridiculous because the logical thing to do is not love those who hate and refuse you. It also doesn’t make sense because sinners do not deserve such love. It’s not only that God keeps loving people who don’t love him back but that he’s loving people who don’t even deserve the love in the first place.
This kind of love seems reckless. It seems that God loves so selflessly that he doesn’t care if he gets hurt. He continues to go after sinners without concern for himself. It seems that God’s love is about bringing people back to him no matter the cost to himself. For many people, this is the conclusion that they come to. However, is this really the truth that Scripture conveys?
Is God’s love reckless?
God’s love seems reckless because he is so unconcerned about himself or his well-being in the way he loves. However, Scripture seems to paint a different picture of God and the purpose behind His love. The whole Bible shows us that God is not unconcerned with himself but is ultimately for himself.
We see that God restores and even saved the Israelites from Egypt for his name’s sake (Psalm 23:1-3; Psalm 106: 7-8). We are not only told do good works to glorify God but to do everything for the glory of God (Matthew 5:16; 1 Corinthians 10:31). Paul writes that God blessed us in Christ, chose us before the foundation of the world, and predestined us for adoption, all to the praise of his glorious name (Ephesians 1:3-6). All throughout Scripture we see God not only working but commanding us to work for his praise and glory. God is ultimately for God.
In seeing this, it may seem that the God of the Bible is a selfish and egotistical God. However, it is because God is for God that he is for us. If God was not for himself, he would be saying that there is something outside of himself that’s better. It would also mean that God wouldn’t have to be for us because there would be something better than God being for us. John Piper explains that it is “because God is unique as the most glorious of all beings and totally self-sufficient, he must be for himself in order to be for us. If he were to abandon the goal of his own self-exaltation, we would be the losers. His aim to bring praise to himself and his aim to bring pleasure to his people are one aim and stand or fall together.”
Therefore, God’s love for his people is not unconcerned with himself, but it is for his own glory. God loves because loving his children will bring them greater satisfaction which in turn brings himself more glory. God being for God is what’s best for us. As Matt Chandler explains, it is because “God is for God and ultimately about the praise of his glorious grace, (that) God is not after our begrudging submission but after our joy. God is ferociously about our joy because the more we enjoy him the more his grace is gloried in.”
God’s love cannot be unconcerned about himself or his well-being. God does not love outside of his glory, but his love for us and his glory are intertwined. God’s focus on his glory leads to more love for us and in loving us more, it will lead to greater glory for himself.
It also seems that people believe God’s love to be reckless because he doesn’t know if people will ever turn to love him and yet, he still does. However, when we look at Scripture, we see that everything is in God’s hands (Proverbs 19:21; Proverbs 16:9, 33; Isaiah 14:24). We see in Romans 9:6-8 that God knew exactly who would be saved and who would continue to reject him for it is the “children of God’s promise [who] are counted as his offspring”. So, it is not that God poured out his love onto people without knowing who would believe in him. It is not that God is waiting for people to choose him—we do not go after God, God comes after us. God’s love cannot be reckless in this case because he fully knew and understood that in order to save sinners, he had to send his own son to die on the cross. God does not love us blindly—we are fully known yet fully loved. God’s love was not a reckless love but a love designed and laid out before we were even formed.
God’s love also resembles a reckless love because whether or not we will turn to him, we still don’t deserve it. It almost seems wrong for God to love us and because of this, God must not care about his own well-being in order to give us such a wrong love. Although it is true that we do not deserve the love of God, it is not a reckless love that he gives us. It is a God who fully knew the hearts of man and yet still chose us in spite of our sinfulness. It is a love that does not make sense to us, but it is a love that covers our sin (1 Peter 4:8), a gracious and beautiful love that was paid for by the blood of His son. It is a love undeserving but it is not a reckless love—it is a love so great that it was given in spite of our depravity.
What Scripture says about God’s love
The Bible thankfully does not leave us to guess the nature or expression of God’s love but instead portrays a beautiful and glorious picture of that very love. From the creation of man to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ to our current sanctification and to the future return of Jesus, everything is a display of God’s glory, grace, and love.
We are able to see that God’s love is steadfast (Lamentations 3:22-23, Psalm 25:10, Deuteronomy 7:9, Psalm 36:5) as it is unrelenting and does not give up on us. God’s love is sacrificial (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1 John 3:16) as God sent his very own son to die on the cross and in love endure the wrath of God that we deserved. Scripture tells us that God’s love is good (James 1:17, Titus 3:4-5) as he works all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). God’s love is so merciful (Ephesians 2:4-5) that he made us alive with Christ while we were in active rebellion against him. God’s love is glorious, full of grace, forgiving, accepting, and drives out our fears and our shame.
God’s love is so great that these descriptions are just grazing the beauty of his love. In all the glorious ways the Bible defines God’s love, it does not portray God’s love as being reckless. It is not that God’s love is unconcerned with his well-being, but it is all for his glory which leads him to work for our joy. He does not blindly love, hoping that the people he loves will turn to love him back, but he is fully aware of who his children are. It is a love that is given fully and freely to those undeserving; a love manifested in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. To see God’s love as reckless is a very human understanding of God’s love and not a love shown through the Bible. We must not confuse our understanding of God’s love with the love that God reveals to us in Scripture.
As Marshall Segal writes in his book Killjoys, “the God who made heaven and earth has been treated by all mankind—every man and woman—as worse than a slave. Yet he abandons his throne to find his defiled bride, cleanse of her filth, and marry her to himself for all eternity. Anyone reading this story might think God is a reckless lover—a lovesick fool blinded by his devotion to a woman he cannot and should not trust. Husbands like him are trapped in a violent, broken cycle of heartbreak, regularly and hopelessly deceived, betrayed, and deserted. Not this Husband. No, what looks like blind devotion is an all-seeing, unstoppable commitment to his name and his bride—a family of undeserving, but chosen children. There’s nothing reckless about a God who writes the story—beginning to end, every page—and then carries it out in unexplainable, relentless, and sovereign love.”
It may seem that God’s love is reckless, but his love, the love revealed to us through the Bible, is much deeper and much more glorious. It is a beautiful and everlasting love that we do not ever deserve, yet are still given. We must do our best to set our minds and hearts on the truth of this very love so graciously revealed to us.
Photo By Ben White