Merriam-Webster defines the word reckless as “marked by lack of proper caution; careless of consequences.”
A while back, I got into a small (and probably unnecessary) online debate on whether or not God’s love should be described as reckless. While one can make a fair argument that it can be used as a poetic expression to describe how God’s radical love appears to us, I would venture to guess that most Christians believe that God isn’t actually reckless in his love, especially if we’re defining it as “marked by lack of proper caution; careless of consequences.” God is the all-sovereign, all-knowing God who knows the end from the beginning. Recklessness is impossible for him.
However, when we study Scripture, we discover that if Christians are to accurately reflect God’s love, their love will most certainly be reckless. If you take God's perfect love and remove omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence from the equation, you get a reckless love—a radical love with no care for, concern of, or power over the consequences. In fact, it's because I serve an unreckless, all-powerful, and sovereign God that I am free to love recklessly.
This type of love is most clearly described by Jesus in Luke 5:27-36:
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
How is Christian love reckless? This passage gives us several examples:
Christian Love is Painful
Most often, pain is the very thing that squelches our love. We’ve don't love because we've been hurt too much. We avoid our enemies and cut them out of our lives to preserve our own happiness and peace.
But Jesus didn’t shield himself from “toxic” people—he embraced them. Are you willing to endure suffering in order to love others? Are you willing to “turn the other cheek” to the one who strikes you (v. 29)? Can you show love to your worst enemy and do good to the one who hates you the most?
Christian Love is Illogical
Why in the world would I offer my tunic to someone who just stole my cloak (v. 29)? It makes no sense. It’s unreasonable. In fact, it seems like it's rewarding the thief for his actions! Why would I do something so counterproductive?
If there is one thing that’s clear in Luke 6:27-36, it’s that we aren’t called to love others only when it makes good logical sense. When you read the passage, can you imagine yourself arguing against Jesus’s words when he says to turn the other cheek or give your tunic to the one who stole your cloak? Can you hear yourself say, Actually, the most loving thing to do would be to let them experience the consequences of their sinful actions? Are there situations in which "tough love" is necessary? Absolutely. God often does this when he chastens and disciplines us, and there are times when Christians are commanded to do the same toward other Christians (e.g. church discipline). But if “tough love” is your default setting, then there’s little room for mercy. And if you're withholding love from someone because you just know that it won't solve the problem, you might want to take time to make sure you aren't just looking for an excuse.
Christian Love is Wasteful
How often do we hide our lovelessness under the guise of “good stewardship”? How willing are we to “waste” our own hard-earned resources by giving it to someone who has no power to return the favor?
I use the term “wasteful” somewhat ironically, because, from God’s viewpoint, stewardship isn’t good stewardship without sacrificial generosity (Eph 4:28; 1 Tim 6:18). A Christian’s generosity should never be conditioned by a “money-back guarantee.” Because the treasure of our heart is Christ, we can hold the treasures of this world loosely--freely giving to those in need with no strings attached.
Christian Love is Unconditional
I cringe when I see a Christian brother or sister post on Instagram the over-used quote, “Stop crossing oceans for people who won’t even jump a puddle for you.” Jesus would grieve over such a statement. Did not Christ himself “cross an ocean” for unthankful, hard-hearted rebels like you and me? The people in Jesus’s day did far worse than refuse to “jump a puddle” for him; they killed him.
If the level of our love is governed by the reciprocity of others, we aren’t loving like Jesus. Jesus calls us to “love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.” There's nothing wrong with wanting reciprocity (2 Cor 12:15), but there is something wrong with demanding it.
Christian Love is Impossible
If your like me, your probably thought of several “but-what-ifs” while you read through Luke 6:27-36. In fact, I come away from this passage thinking, this is impossible. And I think that’s exactly what Jesus is trying to show us. Jesus’s standard of love pushes against every natural inclination of my soul. It’s not a normal, natural love.
When I consider the pain, the vulnerability, the risk, and the recklessness that this type of love will introduce in my life, I feel unable to obey Christ’s standard of love, held back by my own caution. And Christ understands that. He knows that we are dust (Psalm 103:15) and that we need divine intervention if we are to love like him. And that’s why Christ came.
Christian Love is Supernatural
If your love is safe, reasonable, protective, and conditional, you’re simply being human. After all, it’s normal (and often expected) that you “love those who love you,” “do good to those who do good to you,” and “lend to those from whom you expect to receive.” But Christ hasn’t called us to love “normally.” We have been made new—transformed and regenerated. If you love others the same way sinners do, then “what benefit is that to you” (v. 32)?
Our love is to be other-worldly. It’s an unnatural love. It’s a love that reflects the love of the Father, who is “kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (v. 35). It’s a love that reflects the love of the Son, whose sacrificial, selfless love was reciprocated with nothing but mockery, blasphemy, torture, and death. And through his death and resurrection, he bestows new life on those who trust in him, filling them with his Spirit and enabling them to love supernaturally. And is this Christlike love—risky and reckless—that becomes one of the clearest evidences of our conversion: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”” (John 13:34-35).
No, God’s love isn’t reckless, but our love most definitely should be.
Aaron Berry earned both his undergrad and MA in Bible at Bob Jones University and most recently completed his MDiv at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary in Allen Park, MI, where He and his wife Hanna, currently live with their two children, Brooklyn and Joshua. He also serves as the Director of Recruitment at DBTS and is a pastoral assistant at Inter-City Baptist Church.
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