Dallas Police & Divine Vocation

July 8, 2016

Dallas Police & Divine Vocation

Every murder is an abomination for presuming to extinguish what belongs only to God. Assaults on police officers, and on other civil authorities, are especially evil because they fundamentally attack all society and public order. Anarchy is the enemy of all justice and aspirant public good. Every citizen’s life, security and livelihood depends upon the protection of civil government and its agents. Vulnerable persons are particularly dependent. The physically strong can more successfully defend themselves. The rich can hire private protection. But the very young, the very old, the sick and the poor typically live closer to the edge of human depravity and are the chief victims of crime and mayhem.

A society that seeks justice and security for all assures lawful police protection from crime and vice. According to traditional Christian teaching, the civil authorities are ordained by God to uphold order, to restrain and punish evil. The police and other law enforcement, with the judiciary, have a sacred vocation, established by God, and central to human happiness everywhere and at all times. Saint Paul in Romans 13 describes the divine appointment of civil authority, even though His Savior had been executed by the penultimate in unjust police and judicial administration. The apostle himself would later be imprisoned and martyred by perverted civil justice. Yet the human perversion of civil justice does not obviate God’s mandate for it but instead underscores the imperative of human law to correlate with divine law. The sacred calling of law enforcement, in a world that’s always dangerous, can never be minimized or casually assumed.

The murders and woundings of Dallas police officers are special horrors to their families, friends and colleagues. But they are also an aggression against all people of Dallas and ultimately our nation. Very likely the murderers had this very intent in mind. Police and civil magistrates, since they are consecrated by society, and God, to special powers involving force and coercion, also labor under special authority and high standards, temporal and heavenly. Corruption and misadministration of justice by law enforcement are uniquely pernicious. Malefactors and their facilitators who fail to administer the law equitably to all should themselves face resolute prosecution for their crimes.

Yet the faults and failures in law enforcement, present even in the best situations, should not rhetorically or politically undermine the rightful authority of police, whose powers are a shield against countless evils.

God bless and protect all honorable police officers who strive to serve the common good. They are God’s ministers for earthly justice and civil order. Even in their failures they are preferable to disorder, which precludes justice and peace for all. The pursuit of approximate justice, even by sinful men, will always fall short of heavenly justice, but still is an expression of divine love and the extension of divine grace.

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One Response to Dallas Police & Divine Vocation

  1. Joan Watson says:

    The other day the Daily Text at seedbed.com raised the question about how does justice and mercy relate to God’s love for us. The answer is both are part and parcel of God’s love for us. The best understanding of that is in this statement from M. Craig Barnes in his book “Body & Soul”:

    In Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, God’s justice and mercy come together.

    For us as Christians, this statement integrates the two; it is not about justice or mercy, it is about both. For too long there has been a voice within the UMC that wants to categorize people as either being oppressed or being the oppressor. Nowhere is that more apparent than their verbiage when it comes to their views about what is going on when a white police man shoots a black man. I hope and pray that these shootings in Dallas gives them pause because it turns their understanding on its head.

    I have a very personal perspective on this. When the racial violence broke out in Ferguson, Mo. because a white police officer shot a black man, my son was in a police academy. I was stunned as I monitored various UMC websites because the main message coming from the UMC–from laity to pastors to denominational leadership–was all about heaping all the mercy on the black man and all the justice on the white man. Although I know that is not how everybody in the UMC feels, that was the predominate message coming out of the UMC. I was left feeling that if my son had been that police officer, it would have been my family standing against the world, including my church. When he later dropped out, one of the reasons I was relieved was because I knew he could not survive being the scapegoat for the ills of society. One of the scariest realizations I had while my son was in the police academy was that they could train him in many ways, but on the other end of that training he would be in as much need of God’s saving grace as the next person; in the morning he would put his pants on one leg at a time, he would button his shirt one button at a time and he would put his shoes and socks on one at a time. And I also had the realization that he is the one I would want to be alive at the end of the day. The racial tensions between blacks and whited did not begin with police officers. Reality is, beginning with slavery, it has been the major weak spot that has had this country divided from its inception; the vast majority of police officers are simply people who are trying to live within that tension. So on behalf of all the persons who have chosen to enter law enforcement, I am very grateful for Mark Tooley’s very balanced take on this. Thank you for being a reasonable voice from within the UMC that understands that justice and mercy are there every person; not one or the other.

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