I love the song "Reckless Love" by Corey Asbury, you can listen to it here if you want. The idea that God has this incredible, reckless love for us that seeks us out relentlessly absolutely captures the idea of how God's grace is at work in our lives long before we even know it! Each week in our communion liturgy we are reminded, "Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, that proves God's love toward us (Romans 5:8)!" If you do not yet follow Jesus, know that God is pursuing you. In my life, God was with me through the hardest period of my life, from 3 - 5 years old. I had just been put in a home, the Pythion Home in Weatherford, and I was broken because my biological parents would give me up for adoption. And yet...God was with me, comforting me! It was only much later that I understood that God was the rock that saved me from despair.
There is a problem with this song, something that I think teaches an unhealthy idea about God's relationship to us, the line that says,
"And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine
And 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, yeah"
This song tells us that we don't deserve God love! It is true that we can't earn it, but I truly believe that we deserve God's love and that we need to be careful teaching this theology through our worship music. I think the issue is the Corey Asbury is confusing grace and love. Grace is the idea that we are sought, saved, and perfected by God! It is God's unmerited favor on us. Ephesians 2:8 says, "You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed." Grace is getting what we don't deserve: forgiveness and reconciliation so that we can be the new creation and fulfill our purpose as image bearers of the divine.
Love is something different, especially agape love which is what we are talking about here. Agape is Godly love, which is different from eros (romantic love) and philia (brotherly love), is the divine love that comes from our Father in heaven, the love that God has for all of creation! Remember this agape love is given to us while we are yet sinners! In 1 Corinthians 13:5 we are told that agape love does not keep a record of wrongs. That means that God loves us even when we don't live the life we are called to. Like a good parent, God will discipline us but still loves us. So do we deserve God's love? I believe the answer is clear: of course we do! If God is our Father, our holy parent, then the answer is clear. I know that as a father, that there is nothing my kids could do that I would stop loving them. The fact is that when we talk about agape love, it is not even about whether or not we deserve it. God is love, God loves us - and that fact changes our reality. As humans, all of our love is predicated on the actions of others. Sometimes this is needed, such as in a relationship where you should receive as much love as you give. But agape love is different. It throws our human calculator out of the window because in God's economy all are deserving of God's love. In God's eyes, we are still that creation that is made in God's image that God saw as very good.
Yes, we are fallen, but God's deepest desire is to reconcile us back to the Triune God, through Christ! My history teacher used to say, "God loves you and there is nothing you can do about it." And you know what, you deserve it. Even when you feel you don't, even when your favorite worship song tells you that you don't!