Editorial: Respect for Police
Recently, our town was the scene of a high-speed chase that ended in a shooting. A law enforcement officer had to use force to apprehend a criminal. In this case, the officer was absolutely justified. We believe that when all is said and done, he will be vindicated 100%. There was no way to stop the person other than to shoot. Plainly, he did what he had to do to preserve the safety of our community. Without getting into the gory details, you should know that the officer’s life was in jeopardy – meaning that if he had not used force, he and/or his fellow officers would likely have not survived the incident. Many of the cases of police using force are difficult to have an opinion on because we seldom have all of the facts. Even in this local case, we may not have all of the facts, but we certainly have enough information to be confident that the officer handled himself correctly. While that may not be the case in every single incident on file throughout our nation, should one or two isolated incidents tarnish the public opinion of those who protect and serve us?
Romans 13 deals with our response to civil authorities.
1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
Without getting into a lengthy biblical discussion, we can see what our posture ought to be concerning law enforcement. The word used means “be subject.” We are to submit to the efforts of our law enforcement. This passage also gives us a very positive view of the police; we should look kindly upon them and their work. Every day, our public servants do not know whether they will be called upon to lay down their lives. Especially in this day and age, we live in a volatile world. In my youth, these kinds of incidents were few and far between “in real life;” it was more the stuff of tv shows. Today, though, we are witnessing a radical increase in situations where shots are fired on either side of the law. Some of that certainly is due to media manipulation, but I doubt that responsibility for every case can be laid at their feet. Sadly, our citizens are more likely to ignore than to heed warnings of authority.
What if we find something positive the police have done instead of looking for something to gripe about? Every day police give directions, save innocent people, and help lost children find their parents. Let’s make an effort to applaud them for their positive actions. We are a people very much prescribed to negativity; we see the worst in things and herald our complaints more than our compliments. Customer service surveys report that only 1 of 10 customers will compliment a job well done. Four or five will take the time to complain. The rest are complacent and will neither complain nor compliment. Are we more like the four or five complainers or will we be that one who compliments excellence? When you see the police doing an excellent job, will you let them know it? As believers, we have the opportunity to be examples who celebrate those who serve us.
The incident mentioned earlier involved a suspect crashing a number of police and sheriff cars leaving a major road closed for much of the day. The officers had to be outside for hours at a time in the blazing heat. Without a doubt, it was a hard day on the job. Since this happened very near our church, a group of godly teenagers stopped on their way to a church activity and bought cold drinks for these officers. What a novel thought! Minister in a practical way to those who serve us. Do we think of the needs of our police? On this day a group of model teenagers did just that.
Three approaches to our law enforcement are possible. (1) We can exhibit negative emotions such as fear or anger. We see that even in some of our attitudes concerning routine traffic stops. Dislike of the law is an opinion that unfortunately today is being taught. (2) We can respond with ambivalence, a lack of any kind of feeling. I suspect there are a great many who fall into that category. This crowd does nothing. For them, the law exists but they have no disposition toward its servants one way or another. Doing nothing is still doing the wrong thing. (3) The final option is to cherish those who serve us. We should desire to see things from the vantage point of Romans 13. The Word of God should always be the lens through which we view all of life. Let’s do something to show our appreciation for those who protect and serve. In light of some of the current publicity, they likely feel alone and unappreciated. Police work can be a thankless job, but does it have to be that way. Maybe God is calling some of us to make a difference. The next time you see a squad car patrolling the supermarket parking lot, stop just to say thank you or offer some token of appreciation. Sometimes a little thing can make a big difference. When we think of the police, let’s train ourselves to think first of the refreshing drink we can give them rather than the speedometer that we hope they do not notice.
Comments are always welcome.