By now you have likely heard the controversy surrounding the song "Reckless Love" by Cory Asbury. If you haven't, a quick google search and some reading will have you caught up. I have been engaged in many conversations concerning this song and I thought it time to share my thoughts via a blog post.
Personally, when having these sorts of conversations I think it wise to hear the persons heart, I want to know the why behind what they are saying or in this case singing. So to be fair, here is a YouTube video of Cory explaining the song. From the best I can tell, this song is an attempt to describe God's love from a purely human perspective, it is seeking to evoke an emotional reaction in the listener. If this is true, then we have an interesting conundrum to unpack. I am a pastor, so I will be looking at it from a pastoral perspective. The definition for the word reckless is; 1: marked by lack of proper caution : careless of consequences 2: irresponsible. Some examples of it used in a sentence; He is a wild and reckless young man. He showed a reckless disregard for the safety of others. He spends money with reckless abandon (Definitions and examples provided by Merriam-Webster). Worship songs that are sung corporately with the congregation in a church should be accurate to the Scripture. Are we okay teaching people that God is reckless? That He is careless, and irresponsible? The sad reality that I have encountered is that people are okay with this teaching and seek to use the Scriptures to justify their point. Unfortunately, it doesn't add up.
In one video Cory uses the parable of the 99 sheep from the book of Luke (Luke 15:1-7). Cory makes it seem as though God is reckless by leaving the 99 to go after the 1, but is this true? Is God being reckless? It took some conversation, some reading and some studying but I found out something interesting. First off, this is a parable and a parable is not intended to portray a real life situation but it is a simple story intended to make a point, however, it does beg the question, "what if it did happen in real life?" If a shepherd was in the situation that Jesus explained they would first take precaution, they would make sure that the sheep were looked after. They would likely have another shepherd tend to their sheep, they would have a hired hand look after them, or if there was no one around or available the shepherd would relocate the sheep to an area that they know is going to be safe, and provide what the sheep need. Not to mention the sheep that is wandering isn't likely to be that far away and so it wouldn't likely take the shepherd that long to find it and bring it back to the flock. Jesus in this parable is seeking to prove the point that God cares for His sheep and doesn't want any to perish. In the case of the parable in Luke, Jesus is making a contrast between the self-righteous Pharisees and those who recognize their need for forgiveness and ultimately for Jesus. Jesus is in no way saying that the shepherd (in this case being that it is a parable, the shepherd is God), is reckless in (H)his thinking. That is for sure not the point of the parable, nor is it an accurate description of God. From a human perspective it may appear that the shepherd is reckless when we hear this parable, but again, a good shepherd is going to make sure that his sheep are safe and therefore he puts thought and action together to ensure their safety, this is the opposite of reckless. The shepherd doesn't just run off without giving thought to the 99, that would indeed be reckless and likely rather costly and full of negative consequence. As a matter of fact, the one that is reckless is the sheep that wanders off from the flock. Humor me as I give you another example, Lets say you have 3 kids, 2 of which are 2 and 3, and 1 that is say 5. You are in the grocery and your oldest wanders off and ultimately leaves the store. You start to panic. Do you simply leave the other 2 kids alone while you run around trying to find your oldest? Of course not, in this case you either take them with you, or you would ask a store clerk to help you, does that change how much you love your oldest who has wondered off? Of course not, it simply means you love all your children and you want to make sure they are all safe. You are obviously going to go great lengths to find your child but not at the expense of the other 2. If you left the other 2 unattended, you are in fact being reckless. God is not reckless in His love, He is very well thought out and this is clear through-out the Scripture. As a matter of fact go and read Ephesians 1 and then come back to the definition of reckless and tell me if they align?
There is so much to discuss concerning this topic, but I don't feel I need to explain everything here or in this moment. I would encourage us to be aware of this new version of the gospel, a version that puts us at the center of it. Make no mistake, it's all about Him, we are simply the benefactors. This does not change the love that God has for us in any way but the Scripture makes it clear that Jesus came, lived, died, and rose all for the glory of God and for God's glory alone. As a result, we can experience the amazing grace, forgiveness, and have eternal salvation that results from putting our faith in Jesus. It is not about us.
A friend sent me an interesting article about what God demands from us concerning worship, the article is powerful and to the point. This article does point out the belief system of Bethel church in Redding, California and how when you dig into what they teach you will find it laced with heresy. That may sound harsh, but from a pastor's perspective, the call to be a shepherd of a flock is to protect them from wolves. I say this in the most loving, non-legalistic way I can, Bethel is not preaching the Jesus of the Bible, they are not preaching the gospel represented in Scripture, and they are leading countless people astray. Don't take my word for it, do the research, dig in, you might be surprised what you find.
As always I am open to questions, comments, concerns and healthy debate. We do not have to agree but we do need to disagree in love so please keep the conversation civil and Christlike.
Joe Bragg is the Ministry Director for Kalamazoo Youth For Christ and he also leads the youth ministry at his church. Joe and his beautiful wife Stephanie have 2 wonderful boys with a 3rd one on the way! Exciting Times!