I just can't get the recent happenings in our nation out of mind. I so desperately wanted to keep silent on issues that go around me, above me, and even straight to the heart of me. Those of you who know me know that always in the back of my mind is the voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. I kept hearing his statement about white Christians sitting on the sidelines in his famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." So, I can't really sit on the sidelines and watch as my friends and family post heartfelt reaction to newsworthy events, so I am compelled to write my thoughts as incomplete as they are. I also want to thank my brother-in-law Josh for posting these beautiful words on Facebook that made me pause and think some more about Mr. Garner and his tragic death earlier this year. He wrote:
Just watched the Eric Garner video for the first time. The guy wasn't being aggressive. He didn't attempt to assault any police. He was just using his first amendment right to free speech when a policeman brought him down with a choke hold from behind. He went into respiratory arrest and died. This was all caught on video.
His comments provoked my thoughts on law enforcement and what the Bible really has to say on the subject. There is no doubt that Christians are supposed to be submissive and obey those who keep the peace of the people. There is also no question that Christians are supposed to love and extend grace to those who put their lives on the line each and every day. I know a few police officers personally, and they do well when they take their Christian ethics and values to work with them and ask God's help in enforcing the law.
Yet, in the Bible we see another group of men who enforced the law. We are introduced to this group in Ezra and Nehemiah. They became known as the Pharisees and their job was to keep the people holy before the Lord God so that the experience of God's People being taken into exile would never happen again.
Two primary concerns shaped the reform of the restored community:
These are just a few examples. Now, I want to be clear that not all Pharisees were evil, Jesus actually has a few followers who were converted Pharisees in the end. My point in sharing this is that those who take on the job of enforcing the law, whether it be the Mosaic law (which is theological but also serves a political and ethical purpose) or the American laws, are to be careful they are always serving the law and not their own biases, opinions, and deficiencies.
Unfortunately, when I read what Jesus said to the Pharisees so long ago, I want to pose some questions to those who are patrolling our city streets and protecting our neighborhoods.
I would urge all Christian people, especially police officers, to hear the words of Christ renewed in our own day and time. If we are going to be in law enforcement,whether that is as a Christian, a minister, or a police officer, let's make sure we are self-aware enough to know where we need to grow and learn and not react. Let's be God-aware enough to really know what God wants from us and learn to live it even when it isn't the popular choice or the choice that benefits the "powers that be."
I must admit that my thoughts, connecting Pharisees with police, may be off base here--but as I went to the biblical text for some word from God on this chaos that surrounds me, that is the word I received. Yes, lives matter. Yes, my beloved african-american friends lives matter. And yes, the law is supposed to create a sacred space in which all people can live and those that enforce the law do well when they participate in the life giving aspects of the law.
In honor of King, I want to end with a song to serve as a prayer:
God of grace and God of glory,
On Thy people pour Thy power.
Crown Thine ancient church’s story,
Bring her bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the facing of this hour,
For the facing of this hour.
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.