Is God’s Love A Reckless Love? Why This Really Matters

There’s a massively popular worship song right now called “Reckless Love” by Bethel Music’s Cory Asbury. The lyrics of the chorus are:

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

Like a good Reformed blogger, after listening to it I began thinking about the phrase, “The reckless love of God.” Is God’s love really reckless? What does that mean? Does that phrase capture the biblical concept of God’s love?

What Does “Reckless” Love Mean?

First, let me say that I fully understand what Asbury was trying to say in the song. As an artist (I’m using that term loosely) myself, I hate it when people perform theological surgery on art without trying to understand the creator’s intent.

Asbury was trying to capture the glorious, breathtaking, staggering, blows the mind nature of God’s love. The saving, redeeming, rescuing love of God truly is unfathomable and oceanic. It’s a perplexing, head-shaking kind of love. It’s the kind of love that surpasses words.

I’m totally on board with singing songs that express the wonder of God’s love, and I appreciate what Asbury was trying to do with the song and the words “reckless love”.

But even though God’s love detonates our dictionary, the words we use to describe it do matter. And I actually think that the phrase “reckless love,” sells God’s love short. It actually minimizes the love of God in some ways.

The Overwhelming, Never Ending, Intentional Love of God

In just about every context, the word “reckless” either means not heeding danger or not knowing the outcome and acting anyway.

A parent who plunges into a burning house to rescue a child is reckless in the sense that they’re ignoring the danger and might die in the process. That could certainly be called reckless love and is probably the most positive example of recklessness.

An investor who plows money into stocks without any knowledge of the company is reckless and will probably end up bankrupt or owing money to guys who carry baseball bats.

When a NASCAR driver makes a dangerous move to pass another car, he’s a reckless driver.

You get the point.

God’s love, on the other hand, is incredibly intentional and fully omniscient, and that’s what makes it so beautiful.

When it comes to saving and rescuing and redeeming and loving us, God knew EXACTLY what he was getting into.

In 2 Timothy 1:9, Paul says that God:

…saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began

Before he created the world, God knew that he would send Christ into a sinful, wicked, twisted, bent, and broken world to die for our sins. He knew precisely what would happen. He knew that we would reject him, abhor him, worship false gods, and be his enemy.

And yet in spite of this, he planned to save us.


To save me. To save you. That truly is overwhelming, never-ending, intentional love.

When Jesus went to the cross, he was well aware of Isaiah 53:5-6, which says:

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

When Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem, he knew what was coming. He knew that the wrath of God toward sin – my sin and your sin – was going to be poured out on him.

When he sweat and trembled and plead with God in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was fully aware that he was about to be swallowed up by the overwhelming hatred of God toward sin.

And yet he still went to the cross. Deliberately substituting himself for us. Intentionally spreading his precious blood over the doorframes of our lives.

This is not a reckless love. This is love so intentional and specific and knowing that it takes your breath away.

God knew how much it would cost him to redeem us. He knew that his beloved son, the one adored by angels and upholding the world by his word, would be spit upon and mocked and ripped open by whips and pinned to a cross and pierced by a spear.

He knew that Jesus would scream, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

And he knew that the Immortal One would be swallowed by death.

The glory of God’s love is that he knew exactly what it would cost…

…and he did it anyway.

reckless love of god

Delighting In The Love of God

Is God’s love reckless? No, it’s so much better than that. He loves us specifically and intentionally. And because we know that God didn’t spare his own son, we also know that he won’t withhold any good thing from us.

This kind of overwhelming love propels us to worship and adoration. It moves us to say, “Father, why would you save the likes of me?” It drives us to our knees in humble gratefulness.

Do we deserve it? No. Could we earn it? Never. But God lavishly loves us anyway.

Charles Spurgeon, who never seemed to have trouble finding the right words, said this:

reckless love cory asbury

Amen to that.

Stephen Altrogge

I'm a husband, dad, writer. I drink too much coffee and know too much about Star Wars. I created The Blazing Center. I've also written some books which people seem to like. You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook

29 comments

      • A friend and I were just talking about this! It’s a very joyful frustration to try to muster up words to describe Jesus’s love, glory, and the goodness of His sovereignty…and always come up short 😉

  • You are 100% right, Stephen. There is nothing “reckless” about God. I listened to the song for the first time today. I like the cadence, but not the song. It makes God sound like some ham-fisted, baffoon who tries to hug you but accidentally knocks you down instead (“Baby Huey” comes to mind … remember him?). Though I wanted to like “Reckless Love,” that single, reckless word wrecks it for me! 🙁 Thanks for another good post.

  • Stephen, I had a similar thought process when discussing this with our song leaders. We arrived at simply changing one word, albeit the first of the title words too: Relentless > Reckless.

    Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, relentless 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, relentless love of God, yeah

    In leading it the first time she, our song leader that Sunday, taught a quick lesson in joyful discernment and how when we sing truth it carries more weight, in the spiritual realities, in our minds, and with longer-lasting enjoyment. His love is surely relentless, as described in the rest of the words in this very anthem!

    In fact if was one of our key song leaders who first brought it up, desiring to share this song with the congregation, yet feeling a tension in noting how it seemed the words were sloppy and “didn’t sit right in view of God’s true character.” So we collaborated as a team, with our Elders, to think through how songs such as they can teach people. It was not just a Yes/No to sing this song, but a willingness to compare it to Scripture. (A few year s ago this leader may not have had the nerve or wherewithall to do this theological work, and her maturity is akin to the whole worship team’s growth in grace and truth.)

    • I love how you guys worked through this as a team. And I think relentless love works so much better than reckless love. Nice job!

  • I would argue that Jesus’ love is reckless in some sense. I agree that your example of a mother running into a burning building to save her child is reckless. If that mother knew for certain that she would die inside that building but still save her child, would that be reckless? I would argue it would be even more so. Yet, this is exactly what Jesus did. He knew what would happen to him upon entering Jerusalem. He knew he would have to take on God’s wrath for all of mankind’s sins. Even though Jesus didn’t necessarily want that to happen (much like how the mother wouldn’t want to be killed in the burning building) he knew it had to happen for us to be saved. His love was very intentional, but I would say it was also reckless.

    • Luke 15:4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?”

      The words of Jesus tell us this is the RESPONSIBLE response, not a reckless response. He related to something people knew at the time. “Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine?”

      This was a phocesious question prompted to the audience. Jesus meets the audience exactly where they are with what they know to get His point across. He never says that he is unlike the responsible shepherds who stay with the 99 and abandon one. Jesus evokes agreement by presenting an event and response that all those listening would have in order to get His point across. Without the audience understanding the example, the point is invalid. Which is where I feel like we have arrived with this song. The point of the parable has nothing to do with the pursuit. Take a look at the words of Jesus:

      Luke 15:5 “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

      Notice that Jesus’s focus isn’t on the pursuit, but the result and response by Heaven. Notice that Jesus also places the action of repentance on the sinner. Also, notice that the joy comes from the reconciliation to God. Also, notice that the 99 are righteous people who do not need to repent. Which brings me to the part of this song that a HUGE exception to Gospel truth.

      It (God’s love) chases me down, fights til I’m found, leaves the 99.

      The song is saying that God’s love leaves you once you been justified in righteousness through Jesus Christ. According to the song God’s love pursues you with a reckless abandon (meaning there is a possibility that the love of God can be destroyed in this pursuit and not able to sustain eternity…) until you are found. Then God’s love leaves you to pursue someone else. This is the opposite of the Gospel.

  • Oxford dictionary of reckless:
    ADJECTIVE
    (of a person or their actions) without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action.

    Wouldn’t many consider leaving 99 sheep to find 1 to be reckless? Did Jesus care about the consequences when he willingly died for us?

    I wonder, do you also have issue with the book Crazy Love?

    • Luke 15:4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?”

      The words of Jesus tell us this is the RESPONSIBLE response, not a reckless response. He related to something people knew at the time. “Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine?”

      This was a phocesious question prompted to the audience. Jesus meets the audience exactly where they are with what they know to get His point across. He never says that he is unlike the responsible shepherds who stay with the 99 and abandon one. Jesus evokes agreement by presenting an event and response that all those listening would have in order to get His point across. Without the audience understanding the example, the point is invalid. Which is where I feel like we have arrived with this song. The point of the parable has nothing to do with the pursuit. Take a look at the words of Jesus:

      Luke 15:5 “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

      Notice that Jesus’s focus isn’t on the pursuit, but the result and response by Heaven. Notice that Jesus also places the action of repentance on the sinner. Also, notice that the joy comes from the reconciliation to God. Also, notice that the 99 are righteous people who do not need to repent. Which brings me to the part of this song that a HUGE exception to Gospel truth.

      It (God’s love) chases me down, fights til I’m found, leaves the 99.

      The song is saying that God’s love leaves you once you been justified in righteousness through Jesus Christ. According to the song God’s love pursues you with a reckless abandon (meaning there is a possibility that the love of God can be destroyed in this pursuit and not able to sustain eternity…) until you are found. Then God’s love leaves you to pursue someone else. This is the opposite of the Gospel.

  • I’ve heard this song often on Christian radio and was troubled in the spirit every time I got to the “reckless love of God” part… in singing along I realized that I had subconsciously replaced “reckless” with “relentless”… glad to hear I’m not the only believer that doesn’t see anything reckless about the perfect love of our Father : )

  • I think the writer explained what he meant when he wrote the song. He was conveying the thought that no matter the mess we are in He loves in the midst of it all. He doesn’t care how some would perceive Him loving someone in their worst. That’s how the artist defined reckless.
    It’s not that serious, we can rejoice God’s love is amazing and unconditional

  • I understand and see it from both points of view. But I also believe that the Most High knows our hearts when we sing this in a worshipping spirit. Maybe priceless would have been a better word.

  • I understand and see it from both points of view. But I also believe that the Most High knows our hearts when we sing this in a worshipping spirit. Maybe priceless would have been a better word. Simon the zealot tried to buy the Holy spirit from Peter in Acts. It’s most certainly can’t be brought.

  • I understand and see it from both points of view. But I also believe that the Most High knows our hearts when we sing this in a worshipping spirit. Maybe priceless would have been a better word. Simon the zealot tried to buy the Holy spirit from Peter in Acts. It most certainly can’t be brought at any price. Also only 2 syllables.

  • I see it differently. I do not think that it necessarily means that it is reckless on His part. In Our (or the Pharisees) perception of his love, we might find him to be somewhat reckless. (Risking reputation while dealing with the woman at the well…risking reputation at Matthews House with the tax collectors and sinners…Leaving his 99 in someone elses care while searching for the one.) Just a thought.

  • I believe that the word reckless fits the entire song, so as to describe how God love and will love us. I take it personally. The same way I want to describe His love as unconditional. If I’m to express my love to my Creator I should also be reckless to forget who I am and how my action will affect me or the people arround me.

    God’s love cannot be boxed by human’s definition at all. It’s beyond our understanding. And if Reckless in this song will describe it in a much bigger, wild and strong way…surely I’ll use it.

  • I loved that he used the word Reckless, it fits in perfectly and he described it perfectly. When you truly feel Gods love and cannot understand the logic in him loving sinners you will also understand exactly what this song means with the exact words used. I’m so glad that someone mentioned it’s a love far beyond our human understanding and when we seek it daily we get a new glimpse of his never ending, unfailing, reckless love… Our Father loves us more that we can ever describe with words. The world may view loving sinners as Reckless yet he gives himself away over and over again for the off chance that we may love him too but never forcing us to. Always giving us the free will to decide, yet loving us anyways! If the word reckless were to take on a new meaning this song sure does explain it to the T?. I love this song just as it is and Jesus loves us just as we are.

  • Where did you get the Spurgeon quote? I am writing a final paper on envy and love and that quote would go perfect in there somewhere.

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