Dear American Christian,
What do you think would happen if you saw law enforcement personnel as an unreached people group to pursue instead of picking up stones to throw at?
For those that find it easier to see them as the enemy, I guess it’s easier to hate them, feel threatened by them, or stay away from them, when they, as unbelievers, act like the sinners they are.
I am positive that if you had their job, as a believer, you would handle things perfectly all the time. You would never feel the pit in your stomach when you have to stop someone because you are 100% confident that all these image bearers driving around in cars know very well they are image bearers of God and would never attempt to take your life or that of your partner.
If you see law enforcement personnel as the enemy, well…..I am sure you are well aware of the words of Jesus when he says to love your enemies. I guess that’s a lot harder than it seems, huh? Surely Jesus meant to love them theoretically and when they do unjust things, point out the error of their ways every chance you get. That is sure to get rid of racism, injustice, and corruption. I am positive that’s what Jesus meant when he used the word “love”.
Jesus says there are two kinds of people on the earth, the lost and the saved. Sadly, in your Americanism, you have created a third category of people. You seem to believe that just because someone puts on a uniform for work, or holds a certain title, they are expected, and demanded by you, along with all those angry protesters who do not profess to be Christians to “rise above” or “hold to a higher standard”.
Let me just humbly remind you that the last time law enforcement personnel were held by a higher standard, they arrested and crucified Jesus in all of their higher standard glory. Last time I checked, I don’t believe anyone has the capacity to rise above their sin nature, regardless of what fig leaf they wear for work. And if you truly believe that law enforcement are people that need to be held to a higher standard because they wear a uniform and carry a gun and a badge, then you don’t believe the Bible or Jesus for that matter, since he makes no mention of that third category of people, who you believe are exempt from the effects of Adam’s sin.
During the time of Jesus’s ministry, Rome’s version of police officers were the Roman soldiers. They were paid to uphold Rome’s laws and in the eyes of Rome and it’s citizens, they were held in high regard because they put their life on the line for Rome. Centurion soldiers are the equivalent of modern day police chiefs and were held to higher standards of conduct because they earned it by fighting victoriously against those that opposed Rome. Centurions also had men serving under their authority, approximately 100 or so.
These soldiers and centurions wore their uniform as their sole identity and they took great pride in their job. These Roman law enforcement personnel were treated with honor by the Romans but not so much by the Jews. The Jews felt like they were treated unjustly and were often negatively targeted due to their Jewish-ness. According to history, the shakiness of the relationship between the Jews and the Roman authorities seemed to grow over tensions between religious expectations and religious thought.
In other words, the Jews expected to be treated a certain way because of their lineage as God’s people, but, the Romans thought their own way of life was superior to all other cultures and religions. These two opposing people groups, with their own lens by which they saw life, were on opposite ends of the spectrum but they also knew how to exploit each other for their own benefit.
Let’s not think that our modern day tensions between law enforcement, race and religion is a surprise to a Sovereign God. I have a feeling God knows a thing or two about why people act the way they do, have expectations the way they do, and fail to act justly the way they should.
If we disregard or even undermine that this is a sin issue that dates back to Genesis 3, and instead have certain higher expectations that people should be better than they are, we don’t truly know the serious and far reaching manifestations and consequences of Adam’s sin. We are in error if we think protests, policy changes, or labeling law enforcement as the enemy will cure people of their most basic problem – embodying a sin nature.
Fighting for causes without including the Gospel is missing the point. Seeing the need for justice and peace as an all encompassing blanket that needs to be thrown on all of society is completely missing the one-at-a-time people component because at the end of the day, it is individual people who make choices to be just or unjust and/or prejudicial or fair. Systems that are broken (systemic or institutional racism) happens one person, one experience at a time. Unsaved people will always behave like unsaved people, regardless of what they do for work, what socioeconomic class they have access to and how much higher education they acquire.
When a whole society of people act like unsaved people, the whole lot is broken. To put labels on the broken lot, like institutional racism, is easier to attack because the person component is missing. When we are able to clear out the language that it is these larger broken systems that should be blamed, we are faced with the reality that its not systems that need to be changed, but hearts. Individual hearts.
When racist or corrupt law enforcement act unjustly, they are, for lack of a better explanation, simply obeying their flesh. They act like unsaved people and when they pull someone over, for whatever reasons, they will evaluate the situation, think and act like unsaved people who are led by their emotions and feelings, regardless of the uniform they have on and the weapon attached to their hip or the badge on their chest. They will evaluate the situation based on their past experiences or even their prior stop, even while still trying to be objective for every single situation because duty calls them to. They live day after day on a roller coaster of adrenaline and see things that the average citizen does not see.
Many, not all, don’t have a greater hope. Many, not all, don’t see the people they encounter on their job as people made in God’s image, no matter how much we write about it in our blogs or talk about it at our conferences. When you have dead in sin cops, stopping and pulling over and ultimately pulling weapons on dead in sin people, what do you expect is going to happen? Most situations end well but some don’t.
Rising above our sin nature is impossible and it does not matter if we wear janitor overalls, a physicians coat, a business suit, or a law enforcement uniform.
If that were the case, Jesus didn’t need to die or his death was in vain.
If we self righteously demand justice for justice sake, the way the Jews demanded it from the Roman government, then Jesus will never be enough. Jesus was not enough for the Jews and until more people come to faith in Christ and accept him as King and Ruler of their own lives personally and individually, society will stay the same. We will never arrive at a utopian society where injustice is eradicated for good, that is until the return of Christ.
If we believe the Bible, that is our reality.
The Jews wanted a tangible leader, who they thought could make things right, according to their own lens, and wanted someone to get those Roman cops off their back. Jesus didn’t live up to the expectation that He step up as their King to solve all of their injustice problems. So, they gave him over to the Roman officials, of course, after judging him a blasphemer for professing to be God’s Son, literally God in the flesh, and eventually crucifying him.
But not before Roman “cops” flogged him, ripped flesh off his body, brutally beat him and allowed his blood to spill from all of the newly ripped deep flesh wounds – which is the only time astronomical injustice was played out for the world to see. The injustice that Jesus endured at the hands of finicky yet corrupt people, would be the very thing that would bring life and real justice to those who believe in him – not justice the way the world sees it but personal justice for the redemption of our souls and a reconciled relationship with our Father.
When the world looks at this kind of justice, they balk, think and maybe even say, “that’s not enough”. They want more because according to how they view things, the death and resurrection of Christ is never enough to solve problems in real time.
In spite of the Roman cops who were led by their flesh and gladly took part in beating and murdering Christ, there was one Roman cop who took part and oversaw the crucifixion but afterward was able to declare:
“Surely this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39)
He did so only because God opened his eyes. People are unable to see Jesus for who he is without the gift of sight and only God gives that gift. People are unable to see other image bearers of God without first recognizing that there is a God to reflect, not just in others but themselves as well.
I am in no way or shape saying that it is wrong to call out injustice for what it is. However, I would caution stirring up an already volatile society with more fuel by commenting on every single scenario we feel “needs to be heard”. The secular news outlets, who have no hope in Christ, are doing a really good job at stirring the masses up and they surely don’t need the help of people who put their faith, trust and hope in a man who was unjustly murdered for the sins of his people, to stir the pot with them. When Christians join in the choir of angry protests directed at “those sinners” with badges, they need a reminder that we are not called to judge the unbeliever nor should we expect them to rise above their station. Unbelievers with badges are still unbelievers and very desperately need a Savior.
Policy changes do not change people’s hearts.
Wearing body armor will not stop injustice from happening because injustice starts from what is inside our hearts, not what we wear outside our bodies.
Imagine what it would be like if more cops became believers in Christ the way Cornelius did. God showed his mercy in a big way when he ushered in this Roman police chief into the kingdom of God.
The scriptures give no indication that he quit his job after God saved him so we can only imagine what kind of cop and leader he was. He probably not only cared about those he led, but he also probably cared about the work ethic of the men under him and made sure, as Roman cops, they did not let corruption be their guide. He might have even shared the Gospel with them.
When salvation is had, it not only changes how someone behaves, it changes how people think and most importantly, it changes how they see themselves and others. Saved people understand they represent and work for the Chief of all Justice, Christ Jesus, who they humbly submit to as their ultimate and final authority. They also begin to see others through the lens of a saved soul, realizing that all people are made in the image God and more importantly, are in need of a Savior. It’s only through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, does positive progressive change happen, which ultimately changes how people react to any given situation.
So, I will ask this again…….what would happen if Christians today, the very ones who love talking about being missional by going overseas or supporting mission endeavors for those that go overseas or even those rare believers who are intentional about wanting to reach the poor and the marginalized in the inner cities of our country, what if in the totality of thinking about being missional we included reaching our local law enforcement personnel.
What if one of our most accessible unreached people groups are sitting in cop cars across our country, pulling people over, chasing after criminals, visiting school children in classrooms, standing guard at protests while angry people direct their anger at them…..what if we turned our attention to them? And not in a trite “pat them on the back, we are proud of you” kind of way but an intentional “let me tell you about a man that can help you do your job better” kind of way. That means we will have to actually establish relationships with these law enforcement personnel. We will have to get into their lives and allow them into ours. We have to learn their language, be flexible and creative enough to be available to serve them and their families since their work schedules are crazy. But if we really wanted justice that trickled down, wouldn’t it be worth it?
What if we stopped expecting and assuming that they have the power to rise above their sin nature because they have a little bit of training under their belts, are given a badge, and a weapon. These tangible possessions are powerless but we fail to see that.
What if we actually took the time to tell them about their sin nature along with its consequences. We would then be able to tell them about the hope that we have that is powerful enough to change hearts and allows us to see people for who they truly are – God’s image bearers who desperately need a Savior.