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  • Daniel Klassen

God Isn't "Reckless"

A few years ago, a song describing God's love as reckless became popular among American evangelicals. Many, including myself, approached the song trusting good intentions were behind it. It was edgy, but the song spoke much about the goodness of God in rescuing us while carrying with it gospel themes.

I have my reservations about most contemporary Christian songs because they tend to have vague lyrics. As a result, they can be adopted by almost everyone regardless of their worldview and adapted or interpreted accordingly. However, many pastors recommended this song to their churches, granted that the term "reckless" is defined along the lines of the older dictionaries: acting without regard for the consequences.

In that, there is a loose sense in which the term describes God's love and mercy and grace for us. God rescues sinners without regard for their sin. We can say He loves us unconditionally.

But, there are better words to describe God's unconditional love than “reckless”. The problem with using the term in the 21st century is that when it refers to someone unconcerned about the consequences of their actions, it means that someone is careless, and it's synonymous with being foolhardy, ill-advised, and thoughtless. That's the first problem.

The other problem is that while the artist's intentions were not to describe God as reckless but to describe the characteristic of His love as such, they cannot, no matter how sincerely they insist, separate God from His attributes and nature, and consequently His actions. That means you cannot ascribe something to His actions that you will not ascribe to His character. Thus, describing God's love as reckless (read foolhardy, ill-advised, or thoughtless) describes God Himself as such.

As we read our Bibles, this is the last thing we think about when considering God's rescue of sinners, let alone God Himself. God acts according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:3-14), and His wisdom has no bounds (Rom. 11:33). Therefore, God never does anything arbitrarily, without consideration of the consequences, or recklessly.

It isn't just His love that isn't reckless; it is His entire character. Paul explains in great detail to the Ephesians how we have redemption "lavished on us, in all wisdom and insight" (Eph. 1:8). Some translations connect God's wisdom and insight with His entire plan of redemption from the Garden of Eden to the cross, and that is correct as well. (Ephesians 1:3-14 is one sentence in the original manuscripts). God always acts in all wisdom and insight.

Another reason not to use the term "reckless" is found in Psalm 50. The psalm is about God disciplining His people for worshipping Him irreverently and presuming upon His love and kindness. He rebukes those who take His silence for approval—who think God is just like them—and He warns them they will undoubtedly face judgement. That is the same attitude those who attribute to God actions inconsistent with His character and nature have. The one who remembers God in thanksgiving, however, is the one who pleases Him.

Ascribing God's love as reckless is to treat God as one of us. It forgets His wisdom, and it forgets that God's love is, in reality, conditional love. God's love is conditional, but it is given unconditionally to us because the conditions were met in Jesus Christ on the cross. It is given in infinite wisdom, with all the costs accounted for, and with intentional care. "Reckless" cannot describe such love in such a way that honours God in thanksgiving. Not even one little bit.

The lesson to be learned here is to be as precise as possible with our words in worship. We worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), which inextricably means we worship God with words that account for His divine nature and character as best we possibly can. I know we cannot perfectly ascribe to God the glory He is due, but there are certainly better words than others—words that line up better with how He has revealed Himself in His Word.


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