Momentous Mondays: Influential artists of the next 5-10 years – Week 50: Cory Asbury

There have been sometimes throughout my 3+ year musical journey of appreciation and expansion beyond my comfort space of CCM, where I’ve thought that this journey I went on (all because of a bold and daring post, way back in February 2019); was indeed futile. I mean, how could someone embark on something so foreign, when all that they’ve known is something so different to what was being set before them? For someone to grow up within and around CCM and worship music, to write about, by and large, mainstream artists, can seem a little weird to the uninitiated, or maybe even downright heretical (or even liberating and freeing, whichever way you look at it). Either way, what I was getting into was nothing trivial- what I was about to embark upon was either going to affirm the music I believed in, or maybe even challenge it to its very core. Looking back on 3 years of listening to music that I don’t think I would’ve touched with a ten foot pole, had it not been for this blog series; I think I’ve done both. Affirmed the music I believe in; and challenged it at the same time. Artists like the Newsboys, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman, needtobreathe, Switchfoot, Skillet, Rebecca St. James, Tenth Avenue North, for KING & COUNTRY, dc Talk, Jason Gray, Andrew Peterson, Carman, Delirious?, Chris Tomlin, Jon Foreman, Hillsong, Philippa Hanna, Apollo LTD, Lauren Daigle, Matthew West, Zach Williams and Casting Crowns, were all present on either the top 100 influential artists blog post list, alongside the 50 artists influential right now and into the future, and it was through all these artists I aforementioned above, that my faith in Christ has deepened, widened, and expanded so much more than I ever thought humanly possible. While it was mainstream artists like Josh Groban, Owl City, Martina McBride, Backstreet Boys, Ed Sheeran, Shania Twain, Cimorelli, Jackie Evancho, Sugarland, Little Big Town, John Mayer, Daughtry and Phil Collins (to name a few), that have reminded me this very one thing, that this little thing called music, shouldn’t be something that we need to argue about.

Sure, if you’re a Christian and profess to be a follower of Christ, you, just as much as any other Christian, need to be careful and considerate about what you listen to, alongside what movies or TV shows you watch as well. But not to the point where you completely alienate anyone who does listen to mainstream music, and then subsequently tell this person who does listen to mainstream music (and who is a Christian), that ‘if you’re a Christian, then you must only listen to CCM and worship music’. I know that wasn’t said in my childhood at all, so why am I drawing these conclusions, if nothing was outright said to me, that mainstream music was ‘bad’ and CCM and worship, were ‘good’? Maybe it’s because that though it wasn’t said, it certainly was implied, specifically by Christians who should’ve been more graceful and loving for people who were listening to both CCM and mainstream music, or even people who listened to mainstream music, full stop. Myself and my brother listened to CCM (and worship) music during our childhood, and that was it, but I’m sure if we were given the opportunity and chance, we may not have dived into mainstream music, because of the stigma and the enigma around mainstream music that made me think that people would’ve thought less of me, if I even entertained the idea of mainstream music, as a way that God could speak to His children.

Now in 2022; and as I’ve been embarking on this music journey for quite some time, here’s what I’ve learnt from it all, and know, that may have been contrary to what I have assumed from people in the past. That music that is good, pure, and noble, music that edifies and lifts people up, music that sheds light onto things that we need work on, and character traits of who God is…well, they come from God. Then there’s the music that is tremendously explicit, music that doesn’t edify, that doesn’t glorify our Father from the outset. We all know which artists are in which category…I don’t need to say. But then there’s the music in the middle- the middle where it’s not outrightly declaring God as Saviour, nor is it outwardly rejecting him. It’s just speaking about life, and discussing issues and problems that normal, regular people have. What then? There’s a lot of grey in music, and at times, it can seem normal to draw hard lines around something, because that’s what you’ve done in your life thus far. But with such a personal and arbitrary (and even artistic) form of expression and a way of providing a source of hope, help and healing, well…‘scoring’ the music as it’s either from God or from Satan, is a lot more nuanced than that. Yes, by definition, songs are either edifying someone up through biblical expression within the song, or they are downright rejecting Christ, and attempting to promote a life of fornication, abuse, and other carnal sins. But the middle where there’s nothing said about God, nor the devil, but a lot about human experience, is what I’ve seemed to have been wrestling with, over the last few years. Can God use a Coldplay song as much as He can, a Chris Tomlin song? Can you feel the Lord’s presence at a Delta Goodrem concert, as you can, listening to your favourite Delirious? album in the car? Can Christ work on your heart, when you’re deeply immersed in music from Adele, in a similar way to if you’re immersed in music from Andrew Peterson?

I used to think that He couldn’t, and that view was in my thinking not too long ago. But it was the blog post series of 100 influential artists (and subsequently 50 up and coming influential artists) that made my preconceptions of music and God speaking through it, shatter by the wayside, as I attempted to see, through listening to artists like John Legend, Creed, Nickelback, Sarah McLachlan, Goo Goo Dolls and Five For Fighting; that as much as we try to segregate and put walls and limits on what and who we believe God can and cannot speak through musically, God shows up and allows what we think and know of music, to be changed into something that is now seen as much more open and inclusive, in the most positive of ways possible. I still acknowledge that there are some artists and songs that are, for lack of a better term, irredeemable, except for an intervention from Christ- especially all of the expletive-ridden rap/hip-hop/R&B tracks, and artists right now like Marilyn Manson, even select albums from Ye, Eminem and Snoop Dogg in the past. But by and large (and here’s my viewpoint as of 2022, which can be ground-breaking to some), God is working and moving in a lot of music that is out there, even if we may think that certain songs and artists down say ‘Jesus’ enough, and other songs that may say Jesus a little too much (a lot of worship songs from artists like Bethel, Elevation Worship & Hillsong) can also be used by God as well. Pretty much, if a song evokes a sense of positive change within us and allows us to be closer to Christ and others in the process…well, then does it matter if its through a CCM track or a mainstream one? I mean, does it really even matter at the end of the day? As I start to write about this up-and-coming artist for this blog post, I have been reflecting upon this very assumption that I’ve been taught, that God speaks more through ‘Christian’ songs than He does through anything else. That is certainly not the case, and this unhelpful belief that unfortunately alienates a lot of people who listen to mainstream music as well as CCM (or instead of), is thankfully becoming more and more realised as being limiting in the thinking of how we perceive God to work through the realms of music. Yes, there’s nothing better than the impactful nature of CCM, and the joys and triumphs the songs within the genre brings. But let’s not forget that the Lord is moving in other musical genres too.

Cory Asbury, of Bethel Music fame (and more broadly, that guy who wrote and made famous ‘Reckless Love’) is such an artist who is very much ‘Christian’ in nature, producing and delivering a track in particular that has swept through the world and has impacted millions of people worldwide. And yet the song ‘Reckless Love’ and the ‘Christian’ nature of it has been debated since time began. I wrote a review on Cory’s 2018 album Reckless Love here, while a couple of years later, wrote another review for his follow-up album, To Love a Fool…so I won’t really rehash what was said there, here. But what I will say about Cory is this- that his heart is in the right place, even if his delivery and word choice has been deemed by some, to be unhelpful and careless. Nevertheless, ‘Reckless Love’ the song has been debated for a hot minute, for years upon years upon years, with some even declaring that ‘Reckless Love’, and Cory himself, shouldn’t even be played in churches because of the problematic nature of some of the things Bethel Ministries has been ascribing too. I guess singing songs corporately in a congregational setting is one thing, where you pay a certain fee and license to the parent company (in this case Bethel), and if churches feel uneasy about singing said songs, that in a roundabout way, support something that the local church doesn’t feel as though they align to, then that’s ok.

But in today’s culture of cancel culture, things unfortunately have been taken too far, with many people (through YouTube comments online, or through dm’s on twitter and Instagram) discouraging others from even listening to Bethel Music artists (and more all-encompassing, Hillsong and Elevation Worship music too) during their private time too. Now if people personally don’t want to listen to certain styles and types of music during their day-to-day life as well as in corporate worship settings, that’s totally fine for them to do so. But as this world has gone unfortunately, the need for the collective ‘us’ to police what other people listen to (or not listen to), especially when it comes to worship music in particular, is appalling, and downright controlling. I know that Bethel theology seems a little wonky at times, but surely, people’s personal discernment (and them discussing it with close family and friends) ought to be enough when it comes to making decisions about listening to certain worship music artists, right?

‘…when I use the phrase, “the reckless love of God”, I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being. His love isn’t crafty or slick. It’s not cunning or shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return…’ To tell you the truth, I almost didn’t consider Cory an up-and-coming artist even worthy or even deserving of being here on this list, and even now, I’m still wrestling with the idea. But it’s because of this quote above via a Facebook post a little while back, that reminds me of how the need for Cory to even defend using the world ‘reckless’ to describe the love of God, is what this world has come to, in how people’s need for ‘correct language’ and the policing of everyone to adhere to such language, is really moving people farther away from faith, than towards it.

For I know I’ve been blessed by ‘Reckless Love’, and the concept of God leaving the 99 to find the one, and I’m sure others have been impacted by the song as well. The debate of the word ‘reckless’ in this track will forever be debated until the end of time (because unfortunately, debating about words and language is far more important than helping the sick, clothing the poor and feeding the hungry), but what I’ve realised far more poignant and necessary about Cory’s music (other than why ‘reckless’ was used in the song), is his heart for worship, and need to deliver worship songs that touch the heart of people around the world. Surely, ‘Reckless Love’ is only the beginning, and that’s the track people will know when all is said and done. But across his two albums (Reckless Love, To Love a Fool) are a plethora of tracks that really minister to a lot of people, myself included. It is in these songs that are not ‘Reckless Love’, that I’ve come to realise that often, it’s the songs that go under the radar for an artist, it’s the songs that aren’t ‘singles’, that make more of an impact on someone’s life, more so than the tracks that are indeed hyped up. For if a song that is downplayed by media from the get-go, can really hit home and challenge someone’s ideology of the world, even change the trajectory of their life; then it really says a lot about the artist’s ability to create great songs, period, regardless of ‘single’ appeal or not?

The song ‘Reckless Love’ has been an anthem for a generation, a song that has, and always will be, one that will as much unite as it will divide. Some of laid claim that the term ‘reckless love’ shouldn’t even be used to describe God’s love, because the term ‘reckless’ goes against everything that God Himself stands for. While others, myself included, have no qualms with the word reckless, because even though I know myself that the term can be received in a negative way, how ‘reckless’ is used in a song like this can also evoke moments of thankfulness and realisation, of poignancy as well as gratitude. As Cory himself delves into the word and why he even used ‘reckless’ to describe the love of the Father, we see Cory’s heart to bring God’s love onto paper for us to reflect upon. As said much more articulately in his own words, ‘…His love leaves the ninety-nine to find the one every time. To many practical adults, that’s a foolish concept. “But what if he loses the ninety-nine in search of the one?” What if? Finding that one lost sheep is, and will always be, supremely important. His love isn’t cautious. No, it’s a love that sent His Own Son to die a gruesome death on a cross. There’s no “Plan B” with the love of God. He gives His heart so completely, so preposterously, that if refused, most would consider it irreparably broken. Yet He gives Himself away again. The recklessness of His love is seen most clearly in this – it gets Him hurt over and over. Make no mistake, our sin pains His heart. And “70 times 7” is a lot of times to have Your heart broken. Yet He opens up and allows us in every time. His love saw you when you hated Him – when all logic said, “They’ll reject me”, He said, “I don’t care if it kills me. I’m laying My heart on the line.”…’ God Himself is never described as reckless, but rather, His love, as seen by the world and through the lens of contemporary society at the moment, can be concluded and seen as reckless, every time. Because in all honesty, who would die (and rise again) for someone who may or may not come back home? Sure, it can be easy enough to die (maybe not die, but at least suffer excruciatingly) for someone you love, or for at least someone you respect and admire, and they see the same for you. But for millions of people around the world, they may never know Christ, or may never want to know Him. They may outwardly deny Christ’s divine nature, or they may not even admit they need saving. And Christ died and rose again for them as well.

That love is so baffling for the human mind to reconcile, maybe even reckless, some would call it. Thus, this song ‘Reckless Love’ is appropriately titled as we are reminded of the lengths Christ would go (and did) for humankind to be reconciled back to Himself. Sure, there will be people that won’t accept the Lord as their Saviour when the time comes. But still the Lord loves us all unequivocally, and all the same. We are to be reminded of the love given so freely and without condition. The love to be received by us ought not to come with a list of things we ought to do or what we shouldn’t do. Because once we place conditions around the love given by the Lord, He may as well not have even come to die and rise again in the first place. Sure, there are standards we ought to live by, if we know and profess to be a follower of Christ. But these changes that occur ought to come out of an overflow of realisation of Christ’s love for us, not because of any external law. Because of God’s grace and mercy, there’s an inbuilt written law upon our hearts that comes through us knowing the gravity and enormity of Christ’s sacrifice, and us acting accordingly because of that. The understanding of the sacrifice He went through for us, then surely, the least we could do is to follow the things we know He’s commanded for us to undertake and do. Not because of any guilt-tripping, coaxing or even shaming. But because we know that our outward change is a public expression of what has occurred and transpired in us. Simple. Full stop. For Cory’s song divides as well as unites. And the song couldn’t come at a better time than in such a divisive society where we need a revelation, that God’s love comes for all, and invites us all at the table, because each and every one of us is as valued and treasured by God Himself, just as we are. ‘Reckless Love’ the song, and even in a broader context, ‘Reckless Love’ the concept, can revolutionise how we see God’s love, grace, His wrath, judgement, and mercy, and can even extend to something as trivial as music choices, and listening to CCM v mainstream, something argued that’ll continue to be argued, up until Jesus’s return. Isn’t that something?

While ‘Reckless Love’ the song is the song that Cory would be remembered for, out of every other song in his whole music career thus far; that doesn’t mean that ‘Reckless Love’ is the only standout in Cory’s career. ‘The Father’s House’, the first single to release from To Love a Fool, is heartfelt and emotional, that even though the song itself is about a concept and underlying message that has been reiterated to listeners time and time again, it is never enough to hear such truths about the Father’s House. We are reminded that Cory and his presence can make a song intriguing, even if we hear ‘The Father’s House’ only once to say that his follow-up single to ‘Reckless Love’ is good…but not great. And maybe that’s ok. Maybe I’ve been rating ‘The Father’s House’ upon the yardstick and benchmark of ‘Reckless Love’, when it doesn’t have to be. The song is good in its own right. Sure there’s repetition, and sure there’s times that I think ‘gee, Cory’s follow-up song to ‘Reckless Love’ is this?’ but all in all, ‘The Father’s House’ as it stands is a good worship song. Just not a great worship song if you want to use ‘Reckless Love’ as a reference point as something to aspire and live up to. Nevertheless, Cory’s new song reminds us to ‘…ohhh, lay your burden down, you’re in the Father’s house, check your shame at the door, cause it ain’t welcome anymore, ohhh, you’re in the Father’s house…’, something that we all should keep on remembering, especially during such a time as this. Cory also delivers the song ‘Sparrows’, track #2 from To Love a Fool, and though the song itself has a similar structure and theme to that of Jason Gray’s song of the very same name; Cory’s ‘Sparrows’ is a great reminder of how God takes good care of us, knowing what we need before we even ask Him. The song itself also reminds us of how much God takes care of other living things- the sparrows, the lillies, the tree and its fruit. Things that aren’t us (humans), are thought of by God- what further consideration would the Lord our God have for us compared to the other animals? God cares about His creation, and this song ‘Sparrows’ is evidence of this.

We see a theme threading through Cory’s music- that though we can be only one human in the sea of many, God’s love covers and reaches every single soul, as we understand the value and worth we have, in the eyes of the Lord. ‘Water & Dust’, from Cory’s first album, is acoustical and reflective, as Cory reminds us all, that though we are ‘…one part water and one part dust, yet You’re still making trophies out of us, making something out of nothing, it’s what You do, yet Your work is never finished and it’s never past due…’ It is great comfort to know that though we are indeed just flesh and bone (physically), we are of infinite value to our Heavenly Father above, that our hopes, dreams, worries and uncertainties, matter to the king of the universe. We are never forgotten in the world we are in, and the hidden treasures and talents we can bury inside ourselves, for fear of rejection by the world, can be in fact brought to the light with the realisation that God Himself has birthed these passions and hopes, these longings and pursuits, within us for us to utilise and encourage the world with. And thus, this song is born- ‘Water and Dust’ is one that humbles us, knowing that though we are indeed not that special by the world’s standards, God Himself thought otherwise- to the point of showing ‘reckless love’ towards us all. Another standout track from Cory’s first album is album ender ‘Endless Alleluia’, a song about the anticipation and excitement that comes along with being eagerly awaiting Christ’s second coming. A great way to end the album, we are blessed to hear Cory pour his heart out as he reminds us to ‘…let our voices rise, all creation cries, singing out an endless alleluia, from this moment on, join with Heaven’s song, singing out an endless alleluia! …’ ‘Crashing In’, from Cory’s second album, explores this issue and understanding of how fear, worry and a sense of ‘earning’ love, falls by the wayside when we really learn and soak in the info that God’s grace and love covers all of our inadequacies- that we come to the Father ‘…with nothing to gain, nothing to lose, nothing to show and nothing to prove, the weight of the world falls off my shoulders, it’s the weight of Your love, comes crashing in…’, while ‘Nothing More than You’, co-written with Hillsong writer Benjamin Hastings, calls upon us all to at least try to understand God’s unconditional grace for each of us, and that out of such a freedom that comes from it, we can’t help but want nothing more than God in our lives. He is our centre and rock- such freedom comes when knowing there’s no striving at all- nothing to gain, nothing to lose, everything done by us for Him, out of an outpouring of God’s love and mercy on our own lives.

‘Dear God’, also from Cory’s 2nd album, is by far the most vulnerable song Cory has written since ‘Reckless Love’, maybe even on par with ‘Reckless Love’, and reminds us all of that even the most strong-willed and spiritually ‘all-together’ people on the outside, can still have fundamental questions. It is almost natural for people to have questions about existence, meaning and the whole lot, but just because someone accepts Christ as their Saviour, doesn’t mean the questions will just go away. We wrestle with the questions, sit with them, like how Jacob wrestled the angel back in the Old Testament. Cory’s song is a moment of realisation that we don’t have all the answers, and that’s ok. For is it better to have been a fake Christian without even knowing it, or an honest and real person, expressing his own doubts? God is big enough to handle questions, and this song can hopefully encourage us all to let our guard down and ask the Lord of some things on our hearts, even if what we’re asking is taboo in society’s sight.

‘I’m Sorry’ is a vulnerable and poignant look at childhood and adulthood from the POV of Cory himself, recounting various parts of his own journey in life, and surveying the fact that what he wanted to accomplish in life, when He was young- it wasn’t the case when looking back on it. The lyric line ‘…thought I’d be learning how to love, instead I’ve only learned to fight, and I was only trying to walk beside You, I guess I just got in the way…’ is a reminder that sometimes us as Christians give Christ a bad rapt- with all of our imperfections and hangups, our hypocrisy and judgemental selves often leave people in disdain about Christianity as a whole- we say one thing but do another. This song is Cory’s often messy attempt, albeit an attempt, at saying an apology to the Lord, on behalf of all the people who ‘got in the way’. ‘Only Takes a Moment’, from Cory’s Reckless Love, delivers a theme that often we as humans overlook- that God’s might and power mean that it does only take a moment for Him to fix what’s broken not only in us but in the world as well. But then there are times where God doesn’t take a moment to fix things- He takes longer. But that doesn’t stop us believing that He does take short moments to fix things, it’s just that He chooses to take longer so that we can learn from the experiences we are in. But then there are other moments where we don’t know why He doesn’t fix it…and that’s ok. It’s ok to doubt and ask difficult questions. But let us not forget that the God we serve is a God that fixes things, and we will continue to ask for these things to be fixed, with a strong belief that He can and will fix them, till we see Him face to face in heaven!

So, there you have it…Cory Asbury’s songs, across two albums, in a nutshell. ‘Reckless Love’…plus everything else. That’s how everyone else would see it. And maybe that’s ok. Can someone still be of influence and impact, even if at the end of their career, they’re hugely famous for a handful of songs, but nothing much else more? Just like artists Jason Mraz (‘I’m Yours’, ‘I Won’t Give Up’), John Legend (‘All of Me’), Creed (‘With Arms Wide Open’), Rachel Platten (‘Fight Song’), NF (‘Let You Down’), Hoobastank (‘The Reason’) and Phil Collins (‘In the Air Tonight’, ‘Another Day in Paradise’, all of the songs on Tarzan) gone before; so too can Cory Asbury be famous for one song more than others. In fact, Cory is one of these artists. And that’s ok. As we look at Cory’s career thus far, here’s one way to understand this- that because of how big ‘Reckless Love’ is, the drawing card into Cory’s music will be tremendously high…or maybe people are just drawn to the song itself, and don’t necessarily care about this artist. Whatever the case, ‘Reckless Love’ is just going to chart more than any other song in the history of Cory’s music, and even if, by the end of it all (and in hindsight) Cory’s place here on this blog series list seems shaky; right now, Cory’s music is deserving. In any other multiverse or alternate timeline, I would’ve written about 100 other artists, and I’m sure they’d all be valid to some degree. Same here with the 50 up-and-coming blog post list. Because with any list of any kind, there’s always leeway and interpretation, right? No hard-and-fast rule. So why should there really be ‘rules’ when it comes to people policing others in terms of who (or what) they should listen to musically? I’ve seen it especially within Christian circles; and have felt it myself when I discuss with my own family about listening to mainstream music recently. Even people in my church circle have commented a few times, have asked why I’m discussing about certain artists if they’re not Christians, while a few years back, when we played some background Christian music at our local lifegroup, one of the members commented that the song didn’t sit well with them, because there wasn’t enough of the word ‘Jesus’, and more of the word ‘you’. Nevertheless, I’ve had my share of people assuming that because I am a Christian, that my listening habits should reflect so, 100%. And maybe some people have a conviction in their hearts to listen solely to Christian music from a certain point in their life, onward. And that’s great. But to comment and ask someone else why they don’t cut out mainstream music (and subtly suggest and assume that other people should do so as well), brings more harm to the gospel than it does for it. It brings up religious spirits, things of pride and ‘believing that your way of listening to 100% Christian music is correct and ‘above’ everyone else’s’, it brings up a sense of entitlement and elitism, of believing that you have the answer to the ‘CCM v mainstream’ problem. It’s a reminder that just because you have a lot of ‘rules’ placed upon you (only listen to CCM is a very big rule), doesn’t make you as free or as ‘strong’ as you think. I’m reminded about Romans 14, and in that passage, Paul discusses meat offered to idols, and what you should do and act in the presence of people who believe different than you:

‘…Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval. In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead. So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.
For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’” Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too.
So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing; but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning…’

Romans 14 (NLT)

Romans 14 is a great reminder when it comes to Cory Asbury and ‘Reckless Love’…it can also extend to CCM and mainstream music as a whole. And the theme and message of this bible passage is this- that some people may feel as though they can’t sing ‘Reckless Love’ because they believe that God’s love isn’t reckless, and therefore, there’s some bad theology in the song, and thus, in their own conscience, can’t sing it. That’s fine. Some people feel that, after their transformation and their coming to Christ, they can’t listen to mainstream music- not because mainstream music is ‘evil’ per se (some songs and artists are downright demonic- case in point for Marilyn Manson), but because they have a conviction in their hearts to do so. And that’s perfectly fine also.

But Romans 14 reminds us that in both scenarios (Cory Asbury and mainstream v CCM), the outcome shouldn’t be that of otherising, dismissing, shunning, making fun of, belittling, chiding or even shaming. Because if you’re being told not to sing ‘Reckless Love’ because of one word (reckless), and you’re made to feel bad because you do, well…how is that being Christ’s witness? How is that Christ in us, showing God’s love and mercy to the world? When one of our fellow brothers and/or sisters in Christ divulges that they listen to The Corrs, or Justin Bieber, or The McClymonts, or Lifehouse, or Keith Urban, and you think it’s wrong, and you assert your view upon your friend as if you think and believe that all Christians shouldn’t listen to mainstream music…you see what I mean? Mind you; if you feel as though you have liberty to listen to mainstream music, you should, but you shouldn’t really flaunt your liberty in front of someone else who feels as though they shouldn’t listen to mainstream music, lest you think you listening to mainstream music will ‘stumble’ them in their faith. It’s an interesting issue, mainstream music, and also this notion of the song ‘Reckless Love’, and by extension, any other song you believe to bless you and lift you up, but said song is from a ‘problematic’ ministry a la Bethel, Elevation or Hillsong. You want to listen to what you want to listen to, but then realise that there’s a lot of nuance and levels of grey attached to it. Music, by all definitions and accounts, should unite people rather than divide, and yet, with a song like ‘Reckless Love’, it’s only been able to exacerbate this issue of two camps that are unfortunately divided (and maybe to the end of time, will continue to be divided) as we realise that sometimes, discernment needs to be exercised along with freedom, that wisdom and structure and rules all need to exist in the same space, especially when mainstream music and music from ‘problematic’ ministries are concerned.

No matter how each of us believes, about Cory, mainstream music, music from Bethel Music and everything else; one thing we know is true. That’s Cory’s music is promoting discussion and dialogue, discourse, and everything else in between that, as a song like ‘Reckless Love’ is proving to be the ‘way in’ for people to discuss ‘meatier’ issues, like fellowshipping with someone who doesn’t necessarily hold the same viewpoint as you. It can be as ‘trivial’ as music, but sometimes, discussions need to be had around politics, religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class. And if ‘Reckless Love’ and all the baggage that it carries can do all of that, then maybe, just maybe, Cory Asbury’s music is more influential than we all think. Sure, Bethel Music as a whole may not have the best rapt right now, but that doesn’t mean that their music is any less impactful than someone like Phil Wickham or Chris Tomlin. Whatever our view on Cory is, we still know this- that ‘Reckless Love’ and its impact and influence shouldn’t be denied. Covers by artists like Israel Houghton, Cimorelli, Michael W. Smith, Jo Dee Messina, Avalon, Shane & Shane, The Union of Sinners & Saints, I am They, Chris Sligh, and Seventh Day Slumber; are great evidence of this very fact.

Does Cory Asbury make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Influential Artists of the next 5-10 years’ list? Is there any song, like ‘Reckless Love’, ‘Sparrow’, ‘Endless Alleluia’ and ‘The Father’s House’, that has impacted you on your journey through life with Christ thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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