Worship Experts on the Theology Behind Bethel Music’s Chart-Topping Song ‘Reckless Love’

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Bethel Music’s Cory Asbury hit it big with his song about the “the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”

“Reckless Love” reached No. 1 for Christian airplay last week, with more than 10 million listeners, according to Nielsen Music.

It’s also back at the top of Billboard’s hot Christian songs chart, thanks to a boost from none other than Justin Bieber, who recently posted a clip of himself singing the chorus on Instagram before performing the song as part of an impromptu worship set during the Coachella music festival in California. Earlier this year, Israel Houghton offered his gospel cover.

But when worship songs make it big, they also get subjected to a degree of theological scrutiny, and some have questioned whether the message of the hit song misrepresents the nature of God’s love.

“A lot of people have asked why I use the word ‘reckless’ to describe the love of God,” Asbury said in a Bethel Music promo. “I see the love of God as something wild, insane, crazy. The way that he pursues, chases us down, loves, I believe, is reckless. We were going after that really furious, violent language to speak of the nature of the love of God.”

Back in the ’90s, Rich Mullins sang about the “the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God.” Similarly, in the worship song “Furious,” Jeremy Riddle, also of Bethel Music, describes God’s love as “furious,” “fierce,” and “wild.”

About a decade ago, Christians were debating John Mark McMillan’s “How He Loves”over the line “heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss.” More recently, concerns over the “wrath of God,” as sung in the hymn “In Christ Alone,” led certain churches to alter the verse or stop singing the song altogether.

The chorus of “Reckless Love,” co-written by Asbury as well as Caleb Culver and Ran Jackson with Bethel Music, goes:

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

O, 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

O, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

The song unofficially debuted last year from Bethel Music before becoming the lead single off Asbury’s album of the same name, which released in January.

The singer explained, “When I use the phrase, ‘the reckless love of God,’ I’m not saying that God himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way he loves, is in many regards, quite so.”

Assemblies of God minister and theologian Andrew Gabriel pushed back against the distinction, saying that “you can’t separate God from his attributes.” In a blog postaddressing “Reckless Love,” he stated that “God loves us with clear and thoughtful intention,” not careless abandon. Even the parable of the lost sheep does not necessarily convey irresponsibility since scholars say shepherds routinely watched each other’s flocks if one went away, he said.

Blogger Paul Yoo similarly made the case that the Bible does not portray such a free-wheeling Savior: “God’s love seems reckless because he is so unconcerned about himself or his well-being in the way he loves. However…the whole Bible shows us that God is not unconcerned with himself but is ultimately for himself.”

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Source: Christianity Today