I don’t know if anyone else is similar to me in this, but whenever I find out that a celebrity or sports-person is a Christian my opinion of them always changes. I seem to take a real interest in them and how their faith plays out in the public eye. They also go up in my estimation immediately and it usually results in a follow on Twitter!
It is no surprise then that I took such an interest when I saw a video earlier this month of Justin Bieber leading a spontaneous time of worship at the secular Coachella music festival in America. If you haven’t watched the video, take a look on YouTube when you get a minute. Now I’m not in a position to unpack where Justin Bieber is in terms of his faith and his walk with God, but what I was more than intrigued about were the words that he was singing during this worship time. He repeated a few lines from a worship song over and over;
‘Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.Cory Asbury
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’
I’m not really up to speed with the latest trends in worship music but I later found out that this line is from one of the biggest selling Christian songs in America this year. What I found fascinating was the description of God’s love being ‘reckless’. It is a bit of a strange way of describing God’s love. As a description, it isn’t neat and tidy, it isn’t a word we would use positively and it certainly isn’t a word I would associate with God’s characteristics. In the awkwardness of this terminology though, God really spoke to me about his love for the lost. Let me share this with you.
The song referencing leaving the ninety-nine is taken from a parable which Jesus tells in Luke 15 about a lost sheep. In that famous parable, Jesus describes a shepherd who has 100 sheep. One of the sheep gets lost so the shepherd leaves the 99 remaining sheep to go after the lost one. Just think about that for a second. A shepherd leaving 99 sheep and risking everything in order to go after one sheep you might call that….Reckless?
The term ‘reckless’ means to do something in spite of the consequences, to do something and not worry about the risk involved. I think it’s comforting to think about God’s love in that way. The way that Jesus talks about God’s love in a number of places in the bible could also support this description of being reckless. Think about the prodigal son for example. The father leaves a party and literally runs through the fields to greet his son. Imagine what people would have been saying about that. The father welcoming his son back into his life after all of the offenses and hurt which was caused. He didn’t care about what people’s opinions were or how he would be perceived. His only focus was on his son.
What about the lady who was caught in adultery? In the way Jesus steps in and addresses the crowd and offers this lady forgiveness? This would have shocked the crowd, it would have caused major offense, but Jesus didn’t care, his love for this lady was more important. Jesus’ encounters with people in the bible were counter-cultural, they got him into a lot of trouble but he didn’t care because his love for people was so great.
Or take the greatest act of love in history, God sending his son to die so that we can know freedom. If that act isn’t reckless then I don’t know what is! God’s love for us means that he would give up everything in order to give us a chance at redemption.
I think if we get a grasp of the level of God’s love for us then it has to change our approach to seeing other people saved. If we have the same ‘reckless’ approach to loving people then our conversations with our non-Christian friends will suddenly start to sound very different.
Often we are held back by barriers when it comes to speaking to our non-Christian friends. We worry what they might say or how we might look. We often worry about rejection as well and the result of that can sometimes be us avoiding these conversations altogether. This was something which struck me at our latest Jubilee prayer meeting when we went for a prayer walk around the streets of Middlesbrough. It involved at least 15 of us standing in a circle in the middle of the street praying out loud. The thought of that scared me! What would people think? Would they think I was weird? I’d spent the whole day worrying about this prayer meeting. When the time came to actually pray though, it was amazing, I felt God’s protection over us but more importantly, I felt free to pray. I had a sense that God broke something of the awkwardness within me.
If we really want to see people saved, then we need to worry less about opinions, or fears of rejection and more about how much God loves these people and how much God was willing to give up for them. That should then shape our approach to wanting to see people’s lives transformed.
How passionate about seeing people saved are you? How reckless is your love for your friends or family? I want to encourage you this month, Jubilee, to think less about the consequences of starting that conversation or offering to pray for someone and more about the recklessness of God’s love for that person. Are we going to be people who love recklessly?
I couldn’t possibly write an Elders’ letter this month without at least making reference to that amazing night in Madrid on June 1st and Liverpool FC’s historic sixth Champions League trophy. Non-football fans…please don’t switch off!