Let me start by saying that I’m not a Chaplain. At one point I was called upon to step up and fulfill that role in an organization. I was honored and agreed and then was relieved of that duty when a veteran chaplain joined the organization and took those responsibilities. And I make no secret about the fact that I am a human with all too many faults. I certainly swear, enjoy a good cigar now and then, and drink the rare beer. I think unforgiving thoughts and the good Lord knows I appreciate viewing the female form from both a sexist and artistic point of view (that’s all I can do is look, or “read the menu”. In the words of my wife, “you can read the menu but you’d better not eat, order, play with or pay for the food). Still, I was watching a program not long ago that had as its main theme the crossover that exists between those who salvage souls and those who protect souls. The difference between men of the cloth and men of the badge is often not very much.
So, I was inspired by one part of the show to pull out my Bible, handed down to me through relatives from my wife’s grandfather. What I sought I found in Matthew Chapter 5, various verses, as I’ll quote:
Matthew 5:6 – Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Matthew 5:7 – Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Mathew 5: 14 – Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Matthew 5:16 – Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
As a police officer and veteran of military service I take great inspiration from those verses. For who hungers for righteousness more than a person who upholds the law? Righteousness is defined by www.dictionary.com as “the quality or state of being just”. The primary goal of any law enforcement official should be to see justice served – although I freely admit that sometimes serving justice isn’t the same as enforcing the law.
And as any police officer or deputy sheriff or other law enforcement professional serves the law, without ever sacrificing any officer survival concerns, I believe that he should show mercy and compassion. Note that I was very specific: without ever sacrificing any officer survival concerns. I’m not saying that any officer should ever put a criminal’s well-being or comfort before his (or her) own safety, but when circumstances permit it, showing mercy to an under-control, all ready handcuffed and searched suspect does no harm. Is it mandatory? Heck no. Does it make you a better cop to do it or not do it? I don’t think so. Does it make you a better person? Maybe… Will your reputation as a professional lawman be improved in the community? I like to think so although that may be a naïve and slightly idealistic outlook.
Blessed are the pure in heart… That one makes me think. What is “pure in heart”? Is it about motivations or does it refer to the true nature of a man? I prefer to believe both. A truly good man can have improper motivations at times. As I said, we’re all human. But can a man with a corrupted heart have good motivations? I think not. Just as a civilized man can act like a barbarian, but a barbarian can never act civilized, the same logic applies to a person who is pure of heart. A pure man can make mistakes and act impure at times. But an impure man can never act with pure purpose. That is, to me, a very important observation about motivation and what drives us.
I’ve known police officers who pursued a career in uniform because they liked the idea of being able to carry a gun, ignore speed limits, and exercise control over people. They never voiced in any conversation we had a motivation that was unselfish. I’ve known other officers who worked hard to earn their badge because they wanted to help people and support the improvement of our society as a whole. Their motivations were unselfish. The selfish man will have a difficult career course because his focus on self will lead him into unprofessional acts that will be reflected in his evaluations, promotional interviews, etc. The unselfish officer will receive ridicule from others for being “too soft” or having “a social worker attitude” while his arrest record and proven professionalism will go uncontested. The courage of the unselfish officer will be tested on a regular basis as peer pressure to act differently evolves into scorn when he refuses to do so.
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God. What more in this life could we ever strive for? Ronald Reagan said (paraphrased), “Lots of people in the world live their life wondering if they ever made a difference. United States Marines never have that problem.” I submit that statement applies to far more than just United States Marines, and I’m not taking anything from the Marines by saying that. Peacemakers in any uniform make a difference, even though it can’t usually be measured in dollars and cents. At the end of the day the results are far less tangible but even more rewarding.
Peacemaker: “someone who tries to bring peace”. It’s that simple, and it’s not that simple. Bringing peace, for law enforcement professionals, doesn’t always mean enforcing the law and it certainly never means taking any part of the job personal. There are times when law enforcement professionals have to back out of a situation and do nothing because their presence 1) isn’t required, and 2) only enflames whatever situation exists. Sometimes bringing peace means acting as an arbitrator to facilitate communication between two parties that aren’t violent but are hard-headed enough to not see the other point of view without help. Sometimes solving a crime doesn’t mean making an arrest, but insuring that both parties receive fair and equitable retribution. A true peacemaker uses his (or her) best judgment to resolve all situations in the most overall efficient manner. Yes, especially for police officers, that often means arresting someone and charging them with a crime. I’m not saying that we should ever make a conscious effort to avoid doing that, but I am saying that perhaps we should consider other options at times where trivial crimes are involved. Each incident is different and should be evaluated on its own merits.
And finally, Mathew 5:14 and 5:16 make it clear that by performing as peacemakers without shame, proud in what we do and honored to display for all observers the proper way to do it, we glorify God. As I understand those few verses that means that simply by doing my job the proper way I’m worshipping God? Yes.
So all you peacemakers out there, whether you wear a uniform or a badge or both or neither, take heart in the fact that you have chosen a profession or a way of life that daily reaffirms your faith and loyalty to God. If that is too direct of a statement for you, or if you take umbrage with it for some reason, then think of it this way: simply by doing your job correctly you actively support the furtherance of the Judaeo-Christian ethos this country was founded on and that will protect our great country from warped faith-based attacks in the future.
Peacemakers are of the highest performance in our country today. Since the birth of this great nation it has been attacked by foreigners either acting on their own or representing nation-states. In the 21st century we’ve had to accept the reality that an entire segment of the world population hates all Americans purely for our own belief structure and way of life. That group of hateful people we usually refer to as terrorists seek to kill us because in their belief structure it is the will of their god. So not only do our peacemakers have the duty of keeping the peace during the course of our normal daily life, they also have the added burden of preventing further attacks by terrorists, reacting to such attacks if they do occur, and resolving any terrorists attacks that last for any length of time.
So I say to all of you who consider yourself peacemakers but don’t perform that role in a uniform, help them. Act as the eyes and ears of the uniformed peacemakers. Support them as they protect and defend or protect and serve you. Appreciate what they do and express that appreciation. It’s as simple as saying, “Thank you” or writing a letter to your local law enforcement executive leader. We’re all in this together. Let’s act like it every moment of every day.
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