God’s Love Isn’t Reckless, and Neither Should Our Worship Be

People keep asking me about the song “Reckless Love” by Bethel Music and Cory Asbury.

(With a last name like that, shouldn’t Cory be Methodist?)

Apparently it’s caused quite a stir with the idea that God’s love could be described as “reckless” in any way. That’s understandable, because, well, just look up the definition to the word.

Adjective

  1. utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action; without caution; careless (usually followed by of): to be reckless of danger.
  2. characterized by or proceeding from such carelessness: reckless extravagance.

Synonyms

1. rash, heedless, incautious, negligent, imprudent.

My first encounter with this song was during Lowpoint Church’s defiant and unapologetic worship of its then-pastor, admitted rapist Andy Savage. If you’d like to see a bit of their blasphemous, self-indulgent rendition of this song, check out the video.

I am aware of the explanation by Mr. Asbury in which he says his use of reckless is more from the perspective of humanity, as if it seems excessive, obsessive, and wasteful. Many pastors and “worship leaders” have parroted this explanation. Some have expressed caution. Others have simply taken Asbury’s explanation that, he “didn’t mean it that way” and we should all just get over ourselves and worship.

In other words, what the word “reckless” means isn’t what it means to Cory, so we should just give him the benefit of the doubt, give in, and let the Holy Kick Drum move us to good jesusy feelings.

Without even reading the words, one can see that this song is not meant for corporate worship. On this count alone it fails. It’s meant to be recorded and performed. The participation of the congregation audience in the pews stadium-style seating doesn’t matter in the least, other than maybe as cheerleaders for the worshipers performers in the chancel on the stage.

Well, see what you think.

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.
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.
And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And 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.
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.
 
Oh, the overwhelming…

Is it just me, or do these lyrics remind anyone else of…

Just wondering. Anyway…

One of the things that bothers me so much about the casual me-worship atmosphere we find in the commercial megachurch culture is the sentiment that people like me, basically anyone who believes worship and ethics are inextricably related, should just shut up and be glad that people are worshiping. Stop nitpicking, they often say, because God’s looks at the heart, not the theology.

That may very well be true in a sense, but it betrays the very function of Christian worship. The contemporary church sees gathered worship as an event dedicated to facilitating the individual’s expressions toward God through the pseudo-sacraments of music and teaching, and evangelizing through a holy bait and switch. But the historic function of gathered worship is more concerned with God’s impressions on us, God’s covenant people. In that sense, worship is ultimately about building an ethical, Christ-shaped church.

The ancient church understood this; lex orandi, lex credendi. The modern commercial church has totally lost it, through making worship about evangelism and personal, sentimental meaning. The result is a two-fold disaster. We have a contemporary church culture that doesn’t know how to worship (perhaps we could say that it worships “recklessly”), and we have a church that is missionally weak, bloated, and apathetic.

Nothing the church does in worship can add or detract from God’s glory. One contemporary church musician told me recently that worship  is “pouring out my heart of love for my Savior.” No, and in fact this idea is blasphemous. God is not some puppy with separation anxiety who needs the shallow affirmations of its owner. But through true worship that is based upon word and sacrament, we are changed, molded into a church

If we understand that worship and ethics are inextricably linked, we can understand that what we say (and how we say what we say) in worship is of the utmost importance. It no longer can be viewed as petty, divisive, or evil; instead, it becomes an absolute necessity. That’s why worship must be liturgical, and carefully constructed. What we say and do must be framed with precision, dignity,  and truth. It is to our utter failure as a church that elevated and eloquent language no longer finds a place in worship simply because we’re afraid some within or without might find it alienating or “stuffy.”

So where does this leave us with the song “Reckless Love?” Of course God’s love is not reckless. God’s pursuit of God’s people is not reckless, either. God’s mighty acts in Jesus Christ were costly, selfless, and redemptive. They were not irresponsible, over-confident, or foolish.

Beyond that, this image of God as the ultimate knight in shining armor, the tireless pursuer of his current love interest, is tiresome, outdated, and fundamentally flawed. Really look at the words here. Read them through a few times. Behind the primal, orgasmic wails is ultimately worship of self. This is me-worship, pure and simple. This is a bottom-up, anthropocentric theology. God’s love, reckless or thoroughly responsible, is not about you and me. It is cosmic, political, subversive.

This kind of crap cannot sustain a church. It may stir up a few good feelings about a god of our own creation, but that sort of folly will lead nowhere. It cannot lead a Christ-shaped church into ethical, missional, redemptive service.

Worship matters.

Words matter.

Truth matters.

Language matters.

When will we ever learn?

Photo:
pixabay

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