I was recently eavesdropping on a conversation in the office. “Officer SoAndSo’s a Christian? He picked the wrong career!” “Why’s that?” I chimed in. “Well, this profession isn’t very Christian… I mean how could anyone be a Christian and do this job?” “I’m a Christian, I have no problem doing this job”. Enter awkward silence.
I understand that the officer who started this conversation was referring to a morality based christianity where one believes that we can only love and say nice things and turn our cheeks side to side as people backhand us. But it got me thinking about how important it is for Christian men and women to pursue careers like law enforcement.
Being a cop is not just about arresting bad guys, there’s a humanitarian side as well. Eric Greitens describes this dichotomy as the heart and the fist in his book with the same title. I don’t believe Greitens is a believer, and if you know his story, he is certainly not perfect, but he has lived quite an impressive life of service, and I think his book does an amazing job of talking about what it truly means to be a warrior.
For those of you not familiar with Greitens, he started his career as a humanitarian, travelling the world serving in refugee camps. Of course the next logical step would be to become a Navy Seal, so that’s what he did. Greiten’s heart for people is evident in his desire to serve. Greitens tells a story in the beginning of his book that has stuck with me over the years. He talks about how he was serving in a humanitarian capacity overseas in a refugee camp. They provided water, food, and shelter to a suffering people.
One day Greitens asked a man, what he could be doing more to better help these people. The man told him (and I’m paraphrasing) “The food water and shelter are great. But as soon as you leave, the enemy will come back and take it all, and we will be no better off. If you love us you need to protect us.” If you truly love something, you need to be willing to protect it.
I love that. It resonates with me; in many ways it’s why many of us became first responders. For those of you thinking about joining the ranks, or for those of you who have become so jaded that you want to leave, ponder this. Do you love your community? Do you have a desire to serve certain populations within that community? Does your heart go out to the children, the widows, the poor, the elderly, or just the public in general?
One of the most loving things you can do is protect them, and to be willing to lay down your life for a stranger. What’s amazing about being police, is that when you are not actively protecting, or bearing the fist, you have the responsibility of being the humanitarian, and bearing the heart. You have the unique opportunity to engage and love on communities you would probably never know otherwise.
Many officers have difficulty finding a balance between the heart and the fist. Sure if you are SWAT you are more fist, and yes if you are a SRO you are more heart. But there is still a balance. Many officers who have been on for many years have lost most of the heart, and mainly display the fist. On the flip side, many young officers have a hard time understanding when it’s okay to put away the heart and pull out the fist.
I believe that having your faith grounded in Christ allows you to find the balance needed to succeed in the mission as a law enforcement officer, and is the key to understanding how to train and equip both your heart and fists.
Our God is a God of war, He says so in Exodus 15:3, but on the contrary, Romans 15:33 says that God is a God of peace. Our Lord displays the perfect balance between the two, and we as Christian officers must understand that both are crucial to our mission. We know that the Lord is a God who loves justice, and He gives permission to certain individuals to bare the sword and carry out His justice. But we also know that our Lord loved and spent time with society’s most undesired people. Jesus flipped tables and yelled at Pharisee’s, but he also fed the hungry, and cradled little children.
There is no black and white answer of what this balance looks like. As a Christian I believe it takes spending time with the Lord in His word and in prayer, along with walking in a community of believers who can keep you accountable. It’s a lifelong journey. We aren’t perfect and it’s not easy. Mistakes will be made. But it’s important to recognize that we need to equip, strengthen and train both our hearts and our fists; no matter where in the journey your find yourself in.
So whether you’re the rookie who loves and trusts everybody, or the salty old veteran, I encourage you to seek the Lord and find the balance.
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