Reckless continues to stir the pot of debate on worship lyrics. I'm going to present both sides to this argument and I will do so fairly as an advocate for each argument would. So please don't assume my personal position until you've read it all. But before I get into the specifics on the song, I want to present two points:
First, the lyrics in our worship songs matter.
Regardless of your position on this song, we should all agree that it is very important to scrutinize the lyrics of our worship songs. We live in an era of vanity over reverence, and emotion over true conviction. That's not good. The lyrics in our worship songs matter. After all, we are literally proclaiming these songs as truths to God Almighty, with lyrics that are about God Almighty. So yes, it is important that these songs be completely true of God and not emotional hype. I’m not suggesting we approach this pharisaically, but we need to be cautious.
Second, we need to be fair in our criticism.
Whether you like Bethel or not should have no influence on your analysis of this song. If we’re going to question the efforts, intent, and ministry of an artist, then we need to be objective in our approach.
So what's the problem with Reckless?
The issue that people have taken with the song Reckless is not with the song in its entirety, but specifically a 4-word phrase in the chorus. Consider the lyrics:
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
The problem that many have is fairly obvious. The song appears to be describing God as reckless. I use the word "appears" so I maintain a neutral position for the time being.
*It is important to note that the rest of the song goes undisputed as far as biblical and theological accuracy goes.
So why is this phrase so concerning?
"Reckless" is defined as a lack of proper caution or careless of consequences, per Merriam-Webster authority. Well, a brief analysis of the attributes of God; His wisdom, omniscience, omnipotence, holiness, sovereignty, etc. will reveal that "reckless," as defined above, is inarguably inconsistent with the character, essence, and nature of God.
That said, we can conclude that God is in no way reckless.
To be fair, the lyrics don't say that God is reckless but rather that His love is reckless. But even to describe God's attributes as reckless is, by extension, describing God as reckless because if God isn't reckless then logically none of His attributes can be reckless. Thus the argument of "God is not reckless, but His love is reckless" is defeated.
At this point it is fair to be concerned about the phrase "reckless love of God" because it appears to indicate the recklessness of God.
But is that what the author is saying with these lyrics?
Is the song intended to describe God or God's love as reckless, as many have expressed it has? Let's look at some perspectives that vary from those previously acknowledged.
Artistic delivery is thematic throughout this song. For example, the first line of the song:
Before I spoke a word, you were singing over me.
You won't find that sentence in the Bible - anywhere, no matter which translation you reference. However, you won't find anything in the Bible that conflicts with it. To advance this position, you will find Psalm 139 speaks to the very line above about God knowing us before we uttered a single word, God's thoughts being precious about us, and other verses that align with the above lyric.
So the first line is not a verse from the Bible, but it is an artistic rephrasing and is completely biblical.
Who likes math? Neither do I (assuming you answered no like any halfway decent human...jk kinda) But I did some math and found that the phrase in question makes up 3.2% of the song. As a reminder, the rest of the song holds no dispute among the Church. That said, nearly 97% of the song is agreed upon to be in line with the biblical narrative and theological truths. I'll come back to this in a second-ish.
A solid practice for biblical interpretation is a method called hermeneutics. Summarized, hermeneutics is the process of interpreting a biblical passage based on the context, original language, intent of the author, and other considerations. This is imperative for proper biblical interpretation. One aspect of hermeneutics is comparing scripture. For example, say we've established a possible interpretations of a Bible verse. One way to determine its accuracy is to compare the interpretation to other verses that are clear in their meaning. If scripture conflicts, then we try another interpretation. There's more to hermeneutics than that but I'm just using that much for this blog.
Back to the math. If 97% of the song is indisputably biblically and theologically accurate, then while we cannot absolutely conclude that the 3% is accurate, we do owe charity to the possibility that we're misinterpreting the 3%– especially when it appears to deliver such an aggressively abhorrent message like "God is reckless." If the author of the song is so biblically astute in 97% of the song, what the heck happened to the 3%??
So now that we're open to the idea of other interpretation of "reckless love of God," let's figure it out.
As I mentioned above, artistic delivery is a common theme in this song. If we acknowledge that, then we should consider the possibility that "reckless love of God" could also have been an artistic delivery that, obviously, missed the mark with many of its audience.
Consider what the author said in response to a demand for clarity. In 2017 Reckless author Cory Asbury posted to his Facebook his intent for using the word. In summary, Asbury affirms that he is not calling God reckless but is personifying God's love as reckless. That is, He's saying that God's love is so boundless that for a human to love the same way would indeed be reckless.
Now, why didn't I just post his response in this blog in place of the novel-length jargon above? Psh! Why didn't Gandolf summon the eagles to take Frodo and Sam to Mount Doom with the ring instead of making them journey there for months and months facing multiple near-death encounters and grief? Because there's no fun otherwise. I'm sure there's a deeper meaning to the LOTR reference but that's another Orc for another time.
I would have used another word. Even with the author's pure intent, I probably would have caved to the inevitable conflict that would arouse from such usage. However, perhaps in God's sovereignty He chose this word to be used as a means of sparking a much needed evaluation of hearts when criticizing the ministry of a fellow believer.
In conclusion, let's always remember to be fair in our analysis. Always pursue critical truth to worship lyrics or sermons that appear off, but always do so fairly. You're not a pharisee, but you're not called to passivity either.
That's all I got. I hope this cleared some things up :)