God's Reckless, Redeeming Love - A Blog Post from Bill Martin

Thursday, March 29, 2018

God’s Reckless, Redeeming Love

By Bill Martin

In the light of Easter, songs can sound different, like green and red traffic lights look deeper, more vibrant at Christmastime.

The JOY FM has been playing a song that stands out not only because of its passionate delivery by worship artist Cory Asbury, but also because the lyrics in the chorus come so recklessly close to the heart of Easter:

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, I don’t deserve it, still You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

(Reckless Love – Cory Asbury, Caleb Culver, and Ran Jackson)

How does it strike you to describe God’s love as “reckless?” Dave and Carmen have told me they heard Cory share personal reasons for choosing that adjective. Many listeners have received the message positively, but a few have said they’ve had trouble using the word, “reckless,” to describe God’s love. God is not reckless, they reason, he is sovereign and purposeful, like a good Father, not foolish and wasteful like a prodigal son.

Since we brought it up, if we compare the biblical story of the Prodigal Son, we will find a serious theological challenge to the assumption that God’s love may be described using only “safe” words and mental constructs.

Biblically, you can say a lot of things about God, but one thing you cannot do is to domesticate him, make him safe. In the Bible, God often acts in ways that, from a human standpoint, appear reckless. For example, in 2 Samuel 6:5-8, Uzzah was killed for trying to protect the ark of the covenant, a sacred piece of furniture that localized the very presence and person of God in Israel.  When you read the account, God’s judgment on Uzzah seems excessive, reckless even. Upon further inspection, it is clear that Uzzah has broken the second commandment (of the Ten), treating the ark as if it were an idol. God’s action is a righteous warning to the whole nation against the dangers of trying to “tame” the living God.

Similarly, in the Prodigal Son story in Luke 15, the father appears reckless when his younger son, the son who demanded his inheritance and then spent it on “riotous living,” finally comes to his senses and returns home. Rather than demanding repayment (the sensible thing to do), the father runs to him, kisses him, and throws a party in his honor.

Who is more prodigal, therefore, the younger son or the Father?  In Prodigal God, Tim Keller challenges us to re-think our assumptions:

The word “prodigal” does not mean “wayward”. . . It means to spend until you have nothing left. This term is therefore as appropriate for describing the father in the story as his younger son. The father’s welcome to the repentant son was literally reckless, because he refused to “reckon” or count his sin against him or demand repayment. This response offended the elder son and most likely the local community.

The idea of “reckless love,” then, takes us directly to the heart of the gospel. I’d say the song, Reckless Love, can do the same. The image of the verses is God pursuing the undeserving one, the lost sheep, kicking down walls, tearing down lies, and (in the chorus) giving himself away. This “prodigality” is reckless by the world’s standards, but it is also descriptive of the exorbitant price Christ paid to bring us “prodigal” sinners back to his fold.

Those who are broken, helpless to save themselves will receive this message with delight, relief, abandon.  Our “Prodigal God” through the sacrifice of his son Jesus—“you paid it all for me”—fights to win his foes, going outside the bounds of not only social propriety but all human respectability; God the Son exiled naked on a cross outside the city so outsiders like you and me can be brought in.

In the parable, the offended one is, ironically, the “righteous” older brother. His offense indicates that his righteousness is actually SELF-righteousness.  He believes he deserves something from the father and fails to recognize that he too is an heir only by grace. Thus he needs redemption from his religiosity as much as the younger brother needs redemption from his profligacy.

I think about this in my own life. Where would I be without, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God?  When did I become the older brother and start trying to domesticate God? Am I easily offended by love-language that is biblical but not safe? And why does this prodigal God keep coming after me, forgiving me, giving me an inheritance with saints? The whole message of Christ’s cross and resurrection, the whole logic of redemption, described elsewhere as “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:18), is counter-intuitive to a religious or self-righteous mind. The song gets this right and, in my mind, the word “reckless” amplifies the biblical truth of redemption in a way that awakens us to the impact of God’s overwhelming love, bringing clarity and vividness to the Easter story.

So rejoice! God was so willing to redeem you out of your helplessly sinful condition that he risked everything for you in the life, death and resurrection of his Son. You can risk putting your faith in that righteous, redeeming, reckless love.

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