For the past few weeks, we've begun introducing a new song, "Reckless Love" by Cory Asbury. I was a little uncomfortable with singing this song with our congregation because of the use of the word "reckless" in reference to the love of God. By definition, "reckless" means "marked by lack of proper caution: careless of consequences." This strict definition does not apply to God. He is well-aware of the consequences of every action and every decision He makes. He makes decisions with a complete understanding of all the facts of a given situation before it has even happened. There is nothing that surprises Him. There is no true "risk" with God, because He knows the outcome. He is not careless, but ultimately care-full, considering every aspect of everything He does, and by extension, everything that everyone does.
However, language is not a static thing (unfortunately) – it is constantly changing, and words continue to take on new and subtle changes to their meaning. I think "reckless" is one of those words. If we look at the Merriam-Webster discussion of the synonyms, I think it makes more sense of the writer's intention:
[The synonyms] adventurous, venturesome, daring, daredevil, rash, reckless, foolhardy mean exposing oneself to danger more than required by good sense. adventurous implies a willingness to accept risks but not necessarily imprudence.
I think this is the connotation that is being linked to "reckless" more often nowadays, as in the idea of "reckless abandon." It implies putting oneself in harm's way, knowingly accepting the risks associated with it. This understanding of the word makes it more palatable to me. The Father knew full well that sending His only begotten Son in the flesh would result in His death on the cross to save sinners, yet He proceeded – willing to accept the pain because of His great love for us. The cross is, indeed, the clearest picture we have of God's love for us (Rom. 5:8).
Jesus left the 99 and laid down His own life for the sake of the one lost sheep (Lk. 15:3-7). Jesus became our substitute so that we could be reconciled to the Father, justified, redeemed, adopted as sons and daughters of God, and ultimately glorified together with Him. Rather than understanding the word "reckless" on its own, I think the phrase can and should be understood as a whole: "reckless love." God loved His enemies, and sent His only Son to die for them, and adopted them as His sons and daughters. This surely appears to be foolishness in the world's view, but the "foolishness of God is wiser than men" (1 Cor. 1:25 ESV), and His ways are not our ways.
Do I wish the writer chose a word with less controversy around it because of the differences between its denotation and connotation? Absolutely. However, I think the song proclaims some great truth, and it's worth giving it some explanation so that we can sing it with a proper understanding.
Some links for more consideration: