Empathize with Good Cops in This Time of Rightly Calling out Bad Ones
I have posted previous blogs and articles on racial justice, including my last blog post, with an excerpt from my novel Dominion. At the risk of being misunderstood or misquoted by some who will say, “This is no time to defend cops,” I want to also address the role of righteous people of all ethnicities serving in law enforcement, and say something to police officers that I feel deeply.
First, I believe 100% that what was done in Minneapolis to George Floyd was evil and unjust and dead wrong (see Racial Justice and the Image of God, with thoughts from Dan Franklin, who I agree with). At the same time, it is also sad that cops as a whole are suffering from the wrong actions of some cops. (I haven’t spoken with a single police officer who has defended anything done by the four police officers who have been charged with murder or aiding and abetting murder.)
I have the highest respect for what police officers do. I have many good friends who are cops, and I know it’s extremely difficult. They daily risk their lives to protect me, my family, my children, and my grandchildren, and yours too. (Again, don’t misread this; I am talking about cops I know, and I believe this also applies to many, even most of those I don’t know. That in NO WAY justifies the injustice committed by some!) In fact, the photos I've included in this blog remind us that police officers are human beings too, and many of them love the people they serve and protect.
Just recently I was having conversations by text and email with some police officer friends who love Jesus. They will be falsely accused of racism many times, though it is sadly true of some cops, as it is of some business owners, mechanics, and writers.
Like everyone else, including pastors and athletes and farmers and business people and politicians, cops are human, and humans are sinners. So a minority of cops will certainly be guilty of racism. I think the majority are not, and a good number of those, including some I know, adamantly believe in racial equality and justice. But still, inevitably, those innocent of discrimination will feel the sting of the assumption.
Think of all the black cops who are lined up to prevent violence and destruction of property and looting, and are seeing among the protestors the faces of their brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, and friends. They believe in the cause just as much, yet also wear the uniforms committed to protect the common welfare, and rightly are committed to doing their duty.
In fact, guilt by assumption also applies to the protestors, most of whom are peaceful, but are condemned as violent and law-breaking because some have lashed out, destroyed property and looted. I remember this well, having participated in peaceful nonviolent civil disobedience on behalf of unborn children in 1989 and 90, never touching anyone or raising my voice to someone at an abortion clinic, never resisting arrest, yet being labeled as guilty because some misbehaved.
As true racism by a cop can result in disaster, false assumptions about the majority of cops can also be devastating, giving people a warped lens through which they view the police. Sadly, the true cases of police brutality and racism feed the unfair prejudice against cops in general, as the true cases of criminals being of a particular race feed the labeling that “this guy is probably a criminal.”
I messaged five of my police officer friends recently and said, “Every time I see a cop I wave and every time I ride the Springwater trail, usually 3X per week, and see cops, I say ‘thank you.’ (Since they can actually hear me.) I love you guys, who you are and what you do/did. I wouldn’t want to wake up to this world without you guys in it. Yes, I oppose, just as you do, cops who violate the laws of justice and love. But I thoroughly support men and women of honor who protect our lives and stand between our families and injustice. I encourage you to speak up for the weak and needy and defend their rights, as Proverbs 31:8-9 says. And I pray for you, knowing how extremely difficult your jobs are, and how increasingly challenging they’ve become. Please continue to faithfully serve our communities.”
Before reacting to the above, keep in mind I didn’t send it to all cops, any more than I would send a message to all pastors and Christian leaders saying, “Thanks for being faithful to Jesus and being an example of Christlikeness.” That wouldn’t be a right message because it’s not true of some. Rather, I sent this to five cops I know it IS true of! And just as bad cops deserve to be condemned and prosecuted, good cops deserve to be praised and commended. So for any of the men and women in law enforcement, whether followers of Jesus or not, who serve their communities and people of every color with respect and justice and who speak up when necessary to their fellow cops and defend the right way to treat all people, THANK YOU! (And for those who don’t, may you repent, and may every unfaithful pastor, ministry leader, writer, teacher, tweeter, blogger, blog commenter, and people of all vocations ALSO repent.)
My heart breaks for cops who are suffering because of what a minority have done. I weep for their families too. I remember like it was yesterday what it was like for years to be labeled as a crazy prolife protestor, subject to false accusations in the media and the courtrooms, knowing my family would suffer from the stereotype some, both unbelievers and believers, placed on me. I also remember years ago feeling this about being in pastoral ministry at a time when pastors and Christian leaders were falling into immorality left and right, and were preaching the prosperity gospel and fleecing people’s money, using their power to abuse staffs and congregations, and otherwise misrepresenting Jesus. It seemed like the ministry became a profession to mock and roll your eyes at. And since those abuses sadly continue, so do the stereotypes, unfair though they be.
However, the difference is, Christian leaders don’t put our lives on the line like police officers do. If I get judged and misrepresented because of the lack of integrity of some Christian leaders, or some prolife protestors, it’s a small price to pay, even though we feel it. But for cops, it’s a huge price to pay. The stronger their conscience and moral framework, the harder it is.
One of the hardest things for all of us to do, whether in families and workplaces and churches and perhaps especially in the military and law enforcement, is to confront, correct and in some cases actually restrain our comrades from doing the wrong thing that brings harm to others. Scripture is emphatic on this: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice” (Proverbs 31:8-9 NLT). If this means having to stand up against a fellow officer or soldier or teammate or family member, so be it. We are accountable ultimately to God, no matter who else may be displeased by our words and actions. We stand before Jesus as the one righteous judge, the Audience of One.
As Paul put it, “If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). In the very next chapter, we learn that Paul practiced this principle in the hardest conceivable way. He actually spoke up to the apostle Peter in the presence of others, confronting him on an act of racism, because while ministering to Gentiles Peter treated them one way, but changed the way he treated them when Jews were present. Paul says, “The other Jews joined in [Peter’s] hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray” (Galatians 2:13). Paul calls out his dear friend Barnabas also! What else did Paul do? “When I saw that they were not walking in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas [Peter] in front of them all, ‘If you, who are a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?’” (Galatians 2:14).
What makes this so powerful to me is that in the early church if you were to name one and only one name of a universally respected Christian leader of great prominence, that name would have been Peter! In church circles, Peter was the equivalent of the senior pastor, the head of a denomination, the university president, the chief of police, the governor, and even the president of the United States! Peter was the last guy you would oppose, privately or publicly, if you were looking out for your reputation and hoping to advance your career in church circles!
As I’ve tried to make clear, this principle of seeking God’s approval above man’s applies not only to police officers or those serving in the military, though in those cases lives can more obviously be on the line. It also applies to the rest of us, including those in homes who witness abuse, or those in workplaces who witness lying, cheating, sexual exploitation, and demeaning and berating others. We are all called to “Speak the truth in love” and “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” We are told, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
My respect and prayers are with my brothers and sisters in law enforcement, including the five I reached out to in the past week. My message to them, and to all, is this:
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
This excellent article shares eight ways all of God’s people can pray for police officers. And I encourage you to reach out to those cops you know who are seeking to do their job with integrity and wisdom and let them know you’re praying for them and their families.
Finally, the video below, from Casting Crowns, depicts powerful images of protestors and police officers showing each other respect and compassion. It’s a reminder that we are all human. And also that true genuine followers of Jesus are everywhere, among the police, the military, every part of the community, and among the peaceful protestors. This is beautiful:
I have reached out to five Christian police officers to get their perspectives on the death of George Floyd, the protests, riots, and the effects on police throughout the country. After they've all responded I will write a blog expressing what they are seeing and thinking. I would also welcome input from any other police officers. Please send your comments to me.