Elizabeth Morris is a woman from a small Kentucky town who, two days before Christmas in 1982, was sitting up one night waiting for her son Ted to come home from his job at the mall. He was in college but was home and working a temporary job over Christmas break to make some extra money for school. And he was late. At 10:40 p.m., Elizabeth got the telephone call that all parents fear. “Mrs. Morris, this is the hospital. Your son has been killed in an accident.”
A 24-year-old man named Tommy Pigage had been driving drunk – his blood alcohol level was 3 times the legal limit – and had crossed the highway’s center line & smashed head-on into Ted’s car. The drunk driver was only slightly injured, but 18-year-old Ted Morris was dead.
Elizabeth and her husband, Frank, were devastated. Ted was their only child. And their anger only escalated when, at the trial, their son’s killer, Tommy Pigage, was only given probation. Elizabeth says that day after day she would replay her mental videotape of that night like a horror movie. She wanted revenge. She would fantasize about driving down the road, seeing Tommy walking, and driving him into a tree, then watching him die slowly in agony. She actually spent a lot of her time tracking Tommy, hoping she could catch him violating his probation so he could be sent to prison.
There was only one problem. Elizabeth was a Christian. And as she brought her feelings to God, and prayed about all of it, she came to the realization that her heavenly Father had also lost His only Son. But on the cross Jesus had said, “Father, forgive them” about the soldiers who had tortured and crucified Him. And that in a very real sense she had put Jesus on the cross, her sins had, and yet God had forgiven her. And she realized that she had to forgive Tommy. She decided to and then offered forgiveness to the man who killed her only son.
But … check this out. She didn’t just forgive him. She and her husband actually began to build a relationship with their son’s killer. And after some time they led Tommy Pigage to Christ. Because of their influence, in part because of their compassion, because of their forgiveness, because of their guerrilla love, he decided to follow Jesus and become a Christian.
That’s what I like to call guerrilla love. People have misconceptions of Christians – that we’re judgmental, holier-than-thou, isolated, homophobic, hate-filled, and too political. And we need to tell those people about Jesus. But why would they listen to someone they feel that way about? And why would they want to become like someone they feel that way about? And so we have to destroy their stereotypes. And we do it by ambushing people with the love of God. Compassionate connection must come first.
We need to tell people about Jesus, but compassionate connection comes first. We lead with love. We ambush people with the grace of God. We attack the misconceptions people have of Christians – that we’re judgmental, holier-than-thou, isolated, homophobic, hate-filled, and too political. No one who believes that about us will listen to what we have to say, so we destroy those stereotypes, and we do it with love.
A guerrilla love ambush could be buying someone’s dinner, giving your garbage man cookies, throwing a block party, inviting the unpopular person at work to lunch, doing yard-work for your neighbor, or … forgiving your son’s killer.
We’re taught in 1 Peter 3:15-16 that we’re to live in such a way that it forces people to ask questions. Questions like “Why are you like this?” “What’s so different about you?” “Why do you have the hope you do?” “Why do you love the way you love?” Repeated love ambushes destroy misconceptions, and force people to ask questions and, when they do, we get to tell them about the reason we love, about the one who inspires and gives us the power to love, we get to tell them about Jesus. And the grace we’ve shown will have already overcome their resistance. They’ll want to listen to us, and they’ll be open to becoming like us.
And that, well, that’s guerrilla.
became a Christian out of a completely non-Christian background and ever since his passion has been reaching the “lostest of the lost.” He was the founding Pastor of Forefront Church
in Virginia Beach, Virginia, a church where 72% of the people who attend were previously unchurched non-Christians. Vince recently moved to Las Vegas where he started a new church, Verve
, in the heart of Sin City, just off the Vegas Strip. Vince is the author of I Became a Christian and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt
(2008), and Guerrilla Lovers