This article was originally written for Christ Hold Fast.
Remember a couple of years ago when that song “Reckless Love” was being played on every radio station and was included in nearly every church worship set, and a large swath of Christian commenters spent the majority of the time debating and blogging about the merits of the idea of God’s love being “reckless”? I think that entire episode is “Exhibit 1,011” of why we can’t have nice things. To be clear, I am not seeking to uphold the greater, more significant errors and deceptions that have stemmed from Bethel Church’s ministerial influence. But even still, arguing over the theological trappings of Cory Asbury’s lyrics is playing right into the error for which Jesus scolded the Pharisees. (Mt 23:23) Which is to say, neglecting the “weightier matters of the law” is almost always preceded by a logical view of grace.
Grace is something that is taken for granted. For many, it forms the infrastructure around which are built all of one’s theological and spiritual understandings. It is the topic of constant evangelical conversation and debate. It populates the average churchgoer’s vernacular to such a degree that, for some, it has lost its brilliance, its luster, its surprise. And when you’re no longer surprised by grace, you can be sure that formulaic religion has overruled faith.
By every conceivable category, grace shouldn’t exist. It shouldn’t have been bestowed. It’s the card in God’s trick we never saw coming. We should have received the condemnation our divine insurrection was due. But instead, “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.” (Ti 2:11) Instead, the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn 1:14) The fact that in lieu of zapping humanity into oblivion for their cosmic affront to the Creator, this same Creator became a creature to take the place of punishment and death for the very creatures that rebelled against him is enough to leave our mouths agape in wonder.
“The very idea of grace is strange,” asserts Horatius Bonar, “and, we may say, unnatural to man. He understands the meaning of righteousness, but not of grace.”1 That’s because grace is an entirely otherworldly concept, arising not out of man’s logic but God’s indiscriminate love for the world. (Jn 3:16) It is wholly foreign. “Grace is different,” writes Peter Wehner for The New York Times. “It is the unmerited favor of God, unconditional love given to the undeserving. It’s a difficult concept to understand because it isn’t entirely rational.” Grace is the strange, surprising offering of full payment for the sinner’s ransom at the king’s expense. Your wretched account is absolved, canceled, nailed to the cross, and a perfectly righteous account is handed to you by faith. (Col 2:14) The Lord of all comes to buy the pardon for all by being the ransom for all. The Strong One takes on weakness to rescue those who are weak.
There’s nothing more reckless than that.
Horatius Bonar, Family Sermons (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1954), 277.