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  • Henry Millstein

Reckless Hope

There's a popular song among evangelicals that sings of God's "reckless love." I recently came across a discussion of this phrase by evangelical theologian John Piper, who took issue with it on the grounds that to speak of God being "reckless" implied that God did not know the future—interpreting "reckless" to mean "acting without knowing the consequences." If that's the only thing "reckless" can mean, then there is indeed a problem with speaking of God's love as "reckless." But I think Piper is off track here. "Reckless" doesn't mean just "acting without knowing the consequences"; it can just as well mean "acting heedless of the consequences." And that, I believe, is very much a characteristic of God's love, from the first moment of creation—God brought the universe into being, and then humanity, knowing full well that we would disappoint and, indeed, grieve him, as several passages in the Hebrew Bible attest; and then he sent Jesus into the world, knowing full well what awaited him. Can one be any more "reckless" than that?

I think that hope—at least Christian hope—can be, needs to be, as reckless as that. We're commanded to hope; hope is one of the three cardinal theological virtues. Christian faith makes no sense if we do not have sure hope in the ultimate triumph of goodness—that is, of God—over evil. But that's exactly why Christian hope is so reckless. For God, or goodness (the two are really the same in this context), don't exactly seem to have the upper hand in this world, at least not if we look honestly at the present moment. We're called to have the reckless or foolish hope (and those two are also pretty much the same in this context) that the multiple defeats of goodness and God that we see around us (I don't think I have to enumerate, at least not in this post—stay tuned for more) are not the final word. If our hope doesn't seem ridiculous in the eyes of the world, then we haven't reached the depth of Christian hope. Hope for a Christian is always a hope of the "not yet," for the seemingly impossible—for the kindom of God, the realm of complete justice, of perfect joy, of peace beyond understanding; indeed I'd say that hope is Christian only if it hopes for the utterly hopeless. And such reckless hope can be grounded only by a sure faith in God's reckless love. Let's all be reckless, as our God is reckless.

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