In 2007, President George W. Bush ordered the deployment of more than 20,000 soldiers to Bagdad and the Anbar Province in Iraq. The objective was, in part, a “unified, democratic federal Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself …” The operation, which the Army dubbed, “The New Way Forward,” was popularly described as “The Surge” in the U.S. media.
I want to be part of a different kind of surge, one in which tens of thousands of ordinary people are deployed with the objective being, in part, a unified, respectful, and just America. Those deployed would be positioned on both coasts and in Middle America and would include people of every race, language and ethnicity in the country.
They would defend against the disrespect and contempt that are pulling our country apart. They would do so by showing respect to everyone, including their enemies; by showing compassion; and by treating people as subjects of God’s loving rule rather than objects of political or economic conquest.
I want to be part of the insurgency of love. That insurgency started a long time ago, under the leadership of the extremist Jesus of Nazareth. Some readers might object to calling Jesus an extremist, but the term is apropos. Jesus called for extreme love for God - “with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”; and for extreme love of neighbor, where “neighbor” is defined as anyone near you, including one who needs help. He said we should love such a person as we love ourselves.
The insurgency of love could undermine the current surge of contempt in our nation and around the world. It would do so by seeking what is best, even for one’s adversaries. Rather than attacking those who disagree with us or withdrawing from them, it would mean going to them with their interests in mind. Jesus’s way of putting it is to “be well-inclined toward your adversary quickly” (Matthew 5:25, literal translation).
The insurgency of love would show the same kind of goodwill to everyone: to other drivers, to slow-moving store clerks, to children and spouses, to liberals and conservatives, to people of other religions and nationalities. The insurgents would routinely ignore the lines society is always drawing to exclude people.
This does not mean they would agree with everyone or relinquish their convictions. I, for example, am strongly pro-life. I believe that some future generation will look back at the latter years of the 20th century, when around one out of three pregnancies in the U.S. ended in an abortion, as a time of bewildering barbarity. Yet I acknowledge that people in the abortion rights camp are pursuing what they see as good, even though they do so in a way I see as bad. To treat them with contempt will solve nothing. For them to treat me with contempt will not help either.
Yet, as a member of the insurgency, I must never let the contempt of others cause me to abandon my post. Indeed, I must see it as a reason to continue my efforts. Evil, including assault and cold-hearted withdrawal, can never be overcome by more of the same. Understanding this, the great insurgent of love St. Paul ordered us to “overcome evil with good.” He understood it is the only way evil can ever be overcome.
All my training in the insurgency of love comes from Jesus and his followers but if someone is drawn to the insurgency who does not acknowledge Jesus, let them come. They will need access to the insurgency’s arsenal, which includes the strange weapons of forgiveness, listening, and blessing, or they will go unarmed. I know God supplies these things to those who enlist, but if they seek them elsewhere, let them do so for, as Jesus himself said, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
As for myself, I count on God’s supply and depend on Jesus’s instruction to carry out the mission. I believe in its eventual success, convinced that the side of love has already been victorious in the insurgency’s most crucial battle, waged on a hill, far away, many years ago.
Shayne Looper is the pastor of Lockwood Community Church in Branch County, Michigan. Read more at shaynelooper.com.