Is God’s Love Scandalous?

Matt Pearson

Is It Reckless?

At the end of 2017, Christian music recording artist Cory Asbury released Reckless Love. The song became an overnight hit that rocked both the evangelical and secular world. On any given day in 2018, the song could have been heard almost anywhere. Even Justin Bieber and Israel Houghton took their turns covering the new worship hit. On the surface, it seemed as though everybody had fallen in love with Asbury’s interpretation of God’s love as scandalous.

Not everyone, however, was excited about it. Many others didn’t like it at all. The thought of God’s love being reckless seemed, well, reckless. A sovereign God controlled and calculated every move. His love, the argument would go, wasn’t reckless but rather strategically extravagant. The debate was over the use of the word “reckless.”


What about Scandalous?

I wonder if there would be a debate had Asbury chosen to use the word “scandalous” instead. Is God’s love scandalous? Could it be that the reason there was a debate at all is because of the nature of God’s love? Does it just seem so shocking, outrageous, and atrocious to us?

Another Christian music recording artist, Michael Card, recently published a book and released an album entitled Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness. He first acknowledges that the Hebrew word has an “ever-incomplete working definition.” Then, Card goes on to define “Hesed” in this way: when a person from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything. Isn’t that a scandal?


Such Inconceivable Grace

Would it be a scandal if a judge granted pardon to a guilty criminal, along with the keys to a brand-new beach house in Maui? Could we rightfully label it a scandal when a woman, who is actually caught in the act of adultery, is allowed to walk away freely? Would it be a scandal if an innocent and godly husband purchased his betrothed back from a brothel and brought her home to be his wife again? Of course, it would. Yet, this is exactly how the Scriptures describe God’s love to us in all its fullness and splendor.

Consider the story of the Old Testament minor prophet, Hosea (referred to by Card as a “novel of Hesed”). The prophet Hosea marries a woman named Gomer, who is unfaithful to him with countless men. She lives as a prostitute, refuses to repent, and continuously sells her body to others for money. Instead of letting her go, God tells Hosea to continue to purchase Gomer and bring her back home. From there, he will continue to love her again and again as his wife.

That’s a scandal. Can you imagine having to walk into a brothel to buy back your own wife—not just once, but twice? Would you be able to go back, time and time again, knowing that your wife didn’t want to be with you and instead chose unfaithfulness? That’s precisely what God commanded Hosea to do. In this reoccurring act, he demonstrates to the nation of Israel (and to us!) what God’s love looks like.


An Unfair Advantage

It’s intended to shock us because it is shocking. We view it as atrocious because—from our perspective—it is. Its unfairness is precisely what makes it seem so unfair to us. Grace is never fair. But it’s that superior stubborn nature of God’s love that remarkably overcomes Israel’s stubborn disobedience (and our own!). We, who have zero rights to expect anything (but punishment and pain) from God, get everything.

Is God’s love scandalous? You tell me.


What Kind of God is He?

What kind of shepherd leaves ninety-nine sheep to find the lost one (Luke 15:1-7)? Whose father jumps up off the porch to hug and kiss and throw a party for the rebellious son who squandered all of his money (Luke 15:11-24)? Would He really be our promised Savior if he allows a “woman with a reputation” to kiss and clean His feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-50)? Would a good King pardon a lifelong criminal as he hangs on a cross for the crimes he willfully committed (Luke 23:40-43)?

What kind of Messiah would forgive the very people who spit on Him while enduring crucifixion (Luke 23:32-34)? Would the one true God really send His own Son to die for the redemption of a rebellious, wicked, ungrateful, and unwilling people (Romans 5:8)? What kind of God commits to love forever a people who were yet to be born, before they had done anything to prove or even disprove themselves (Ephesians 1:3-12)?


Yes, A Scandalous God

The answer: a scandalous God—the God of the Bible—the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—the God who loves you in this way. (Yes, even you!)

You can call it whatever you wish—reckless, scandalous, or calculated extravagance. But if God’s love hasn’t knocked you over in complete shock yet… Well, then you just don’t understand it. The One who has the right to turn away from you has chosen to love you and give you everything forever. That news is shockingly (scandalously) good.