Law Enforcement


GospelVMoralismPick a news story from this week. A strange and unprecedented presidential campaign? Disagreement over a possible Clinton indictment? The murder of policemen in Dallas? Police shootings in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis? The threat of terrorism here and overseas? Twisted analysis of our problems by our leaders – those who should know how to fix problems?  These issues and a hundred more vie for our attention each day, uniting most Americans to agree on this: we need change.

For some reason, we think the problems of this summer are the worst in history. But our current state just continues the path men have followed for millennia with the same core problem that we’ve always had. But lately, people are talking about change more than before. There seems to be a lot of us thinking that we could do better. We can. But we have to know what kind of change is really needed.

If the apostle Paul could speak to America and America’s leaders today, his message would be the same as the one he had for King Agrippa in Acts 26. And since Paul can’t speak to Americans today, those who follow Christ have to be the ones to speak. So, what did he say?

  1. He told his story – Quoting Jesus, Paul related, “But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,” (Acts 26:16). Paul had a great testimony of coming to faith in Christ and if you have been changed by the power of Jesus, then you have a story you can tell, too. Nobody can refute your story, so tell it and give glory to God.
  2. He made the gospel clear – Again remembering Christ’s words calling him to minister, “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18). This should be the heart of our message to the world – the gospel of Christ is the only power that can truly change hearts through forgiveness and sanctification. No other plan or shortcut will work.
  3. When he was commanded, he obeyed“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision…” (Acts 26:19). None of this matters if the Church won’t obey.
  4. He presented true change – Obeying God’s call he “declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” (Acts 26:20) Here’s where lives head in the right direction, families and communities heal, then nations are strengthened. Deeds that flow from repentance. Hearts, then behavior, changed by the gospel.

If the Church prays only for better behavior in our world, if we are content merely with better laws and less immorality, we have missed Paul’s message from Christ. Moralism never solves what the gospel does. As we pray for our broken nation and increasingly godless society led by many blind guides, a prayer for the spread and reception of the gospel is our only true hope. And the only way that hope becomes a reality is if individual Christians share it with individuals who don’t follow Christ yet.

Agrippa thought Paul was crazy, by the way, and didn’t believe the message. But the root of our world’s problems (and the solution) remains unchanged 2100 years later.

baltimore policeThe beginning of Romans 13 describes the protection-design God gave societies when He instituted government. Right now, there are some in Baltimore (in government leadership and in the normal populace), who are in violation of this design. If individuals would understand, then act on the truth in this passage, the problems they are facing right now would take a major step in the right direction. But as it stands now, people don’t feel safe and (without the backing of superiors) the police don’t feel authorized to keep people safe.

What follows are the phrases you’ll read in the first four verses of Romans 13. (Keep in mind, if you believe your governmental leaders don’t deserve your submission and obedience, that Paul’s first-century government was the Roman Empire, led by Nero – not exactly a friend to the Christian or Jewish communities.)

Let 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. – This is true of Baltimore and any other municipality. Governments are established by God for His purposes of safety and flourishing of the people. For that to happen, governmental leaders have to understand their God-given responsibility to keep order, rewarding and punishing depending on people’s behavior.

Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. – There may have been abuses of authority by some Baltimore law enforcement officials, but mostly in America we should be grateful for those who risk their very lives to keep us safe. To watch the news or hear interviews of some citizens of Baltimore, the police are to be defied. There is judgment promised to those who defy God-appointed authority; one of those judgments should be consequences for such rebellious behavior. The problem for Baltimore right now is that the police are not arresting folks at the same rate as before, an unintended consequence for not supporting law enforcement as it should be. The mayor, police chief and state’s attorney bear responsibility for this judgment. During the riots, they coddled those who would destroy and terrorize.  

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, for he is God’s servant for your good. – If you’re not doing anything wrong, you shouldn’t have to fear any reprisals from law enforcement. Police need to keep this in mind as they serve. 

But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. – There’s a good and right reason police carry tasers, night sticks and sidearms. It’s not in vain and has the sanction of the One who ordained governmental authority in the first place. If you get in a police officer’s face and/or try to take away said weapon, you might get hurt. That’s common sense and is a given. No monument needs to be erected to commemorate the life and death of one who foolishly violated this simple principle.

For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. – Government leaders and law enforcement officials should be God’s representatives to us for our good, keeping us safe by carrying out judgment on wrongdoers. That can only happen as their authority is properly recognized, respected and obeyed.

Police who respond to calls are being surrounded by mobs of 30 – 50 people threatening them. Political leaders have sided with criminals. The result? The very protectors of Baltimore’s safety that God has provided have been reduced to unrecognized authorities. You have negated God’s very instruments of your peace and now you can’t leave home without fear of being shot. When those in your communities embraced near anarchy, fueled by perceived injustice, what did you expect?

Baltimore – leaders and citizens – need to quit treating Romans 13 like it is something you can just take or leave. Right now, many are walking away from following its principles, and that is proving to everybody that it’s a disastrous decision.

baltimore protestYou’ve seen the riots. You’ve heard the news conferences. The past week in Baltimore has been marked by the tragic death of a 25-year-old man triggering protests that have been building for decades. And now the marches are spreading across the nation. Disenfranchised communities are speaking out and have a large megaphone available with hundreds of microphones and cameras pointing directly at them. They’re angry and everyone seems to be trying to put their collective fingers on the reason why. But, as is so often the case, fingers are landing on the wrong answers.

We need more jobs. We need better schools. We need economic opportunity. We need the police to stop profiling.

In other words, our government has failed us.

The political solutions are complex, there’s no question about that. But the conclusion that government is the ultimate answer fails to go deep enough. But going deeper for answers will cost us something as a society.

  • It will cost time – The real solution will not happen overnight. Actually, since we have rejected the real solution for so long, the time to undo the damage would take years. How many? I don’t know, but many.
  • It will cost will – We (by that I mean a lot of us who want positive change) would really have to want this. Enough to accept a major shift in thinking and action.
  • It will cost submission – People would have to subject their natural inclinations to the will of someone else.

I see news reports that show churches and faith-based groups trying to serve during these protests. Prayer circles are forming. Food and water are being shared. This is good, but a larger message, a deeper message must also be sent. Not a temporary message of help during a city’s outrage, but a life-changing message that will last for eternity. Baltimore, and everybody else, needs to hear:

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.   – Psalm 118:8, 9 –

Quit looking to government to ultimately help with all our problems. Turn to God and His ways. His Son, Jesus, offers the answer to our most foundation need of forgiveness and acceptance.  His Word holds answers to solving the confusion and chaos in our world. Submitting to Him and His plans will heal families. Parents will be more likely to stay together, kids will be happier, families would be stronger and communities healthier. That would immediately alleviate some of the economic woes, but again, the political answers would still have to be grappled with. But if citizens and lawmakers were committed to God and His path first, better answers would be found by our leaders.

Statements like this one by New Orleans Saints’ tight end, Benjamin Watson, must be heard and embraced. I hope you’ll read it. And keep praying for Baltimore (and everywhere else).

benjamin watson

navy yard shootingIt happened again. Someone with a deranged way of looking at the world has killed more innocent people – this time at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. A dozen people didn’t come home yesterday. Many others will have a traumatic memory they didn’t want or ask for. But it happened again.

What is sad is that it will happen again. And again. If we see the world as it really is, we know evil exists and people suffer. How do we as believers face this kind of challenge? How can we send our kids out the door every day, knowing that our communities are not completely safe?

The title for this entry might be impossible. Evil like this is illogical and doesn’t make sense. But we need to acknowledge some things from God’s Word, our unchanging source of answers, even in the most confusing times.

First, whether we can see it or not, God is in control of everything. Can he stop evil things from happening? Yes. For his purposes, he does it all the time. We might be shocked how often he restrains evil around us. But sometimes he doesn’t and when that happens, he still has his reasons.

Think about it. What was the greatest crime of all time? What was the most unfair miscarriage of justice and cruel treatment of an innocent man? The crucifixion of Jesus. And here’s what the Bible tells us about that evil act – “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,  to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” Acts 4:27, 28

God has his reasons for allowing evil to get the upper hand sometimes, but he is still in control. Second, because of this, we can trust him. Paul dealt with all kinds of evil every day, sometimes to the point of death, and how did he look at it? “For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God…” 2 Corinthians 1:8, 9

Third, we know this world is temporary. We shake our heads often and wonder how people could be so heartless and violent. I saw a Facebook comment today about the shooting that just said, ”When will this stop?” According to Scripture, not until Jesus comes to be the final Judge and make everything right. In the meantime, here’s a great attitude to adopt: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion (or possession, inheritance) forever.Psalm 73:25, 26

So, on days such as these, we grieve. Our hearts break because of the effects of sin on our society. We brace ourselves for what will be on the news tomorrow that we can’t know now. But God is already there, controlling it within his plan and timing. With faith in that, I’m fine to send my daughter to school tomorrow.

good and evilSeveral days ago, after the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing were hunted down, I shared these verses as a Facebook status:

Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  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,  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.    Romans 13:2-4

One comment a friend made under the status wondered what happens when the government and people of a nation call evil good and good evil. It’s the natural question that is begged when we read these verses. Things clearly do not always play out as they should.

The reason I shared the verses that day was because there had been a criminal act committed and as the suspects were being chased, more criminal acts were layered on top. The governing authorities had to use deadly force to deal with the suspects, killing one and severely injuring another who was eventually arrested. This was an example of God-granted governmental authority to “bear the sword” to bring judgment to those who do wrong. Simple as that. We should be grateful for law enforcement officials who carry weapons, sometimes actually using them to maintain safety and peace for our society to operate as it should.

But what about laws and leaders that do not reward good behavior, but elevate evil as something that is right? The verses from Romans 13 paint a picture of civil government as it ought to be, not as it always will be. In this passage, Paul calls on all to submit to governments, since they are God’s servants for our good. This is written by a man who lived under Roman as well as Jewish rulership in the first century, which would ultimately give him a death sentence for spreading the gospel of Christ. Not all decisions by government will fulfill God’s intended role of upholding right and punishing evil. After all, governments are composed of humans. Sinful humans who are in need of God’s wisdom and guidance. Wisdom and guidance that are often rejected.

A glaring example of this is from today’s headlines – President Obama’s speech this morning at Planned Parenthood’s 75th anniversary gala. Our government in America has sanctioned the destruction of millions of lives, many snuffed out by this organization. Not only do we have laws that allow this killing of innocent life, but we pay for it – our tax dollars funded Planned Parenthood with $542,000,000 in 2012 (that’s $61,836 an hour 24/7/365). Not only do we fund it but our president proudly promotes the mission of Planned Parenthood, which performs 320,000 abortions a year, by giving a speech of appreciation and encouragement to continue the job.

The bombing at the Boston Marathon displayed sin, evil, the intentional taking of innocent human life and a despicable devaluing of personhood. These very words may even show up in media reports as they describe the atrocity and follow-up on the victims’ stories. But what we won’t hear are the same words used to describe the work of Planned Parenthood and other abortion doctors who deserve to be characterized the exact same way. And we’ll never hear a follow-up on the victims.

What are we to do and how do we look at Romans 13? Prayer for the spiritual awakening of our leaders and nation is always the first step (1 Timothy 2:1-4). We should also pray for, work for and vote for people who know what good really is and what evil really is. Government cannot and will not carry out true justice until we have leaders who can tell the difference.

It’s good to be back after a little hiatus from this blog!

A common theme at “The Paphos Paradigm” is a call to pray for leaders according to 1 Timothy 2:1-4.  That passage encourages us to pray for all people, but specifies “kings and all in authority”.   There are many categories of human authority that go beyond governmental offices, and one of those is law enforcement.  Let me urge you to remember those who put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe and keep our society orderly.  Pray for them spiritually.  Pray for their families who watch them drive away each day knowing they may face a life-or-death situation.  Pray for split-second decisions they must make to apply the right amount of force to resolve problems.  You can think of many more requests, I’m sure.

Even be thankful for that speeding or parking ticket that reminds us the truth from Romans 13:4 – “for it [human authority] is a minister of God to you for good…” 

I’m mindful of this now more than ever since last week.  Thursday, a friend of mine who worked as a wildlife conservation officer for the Pennsylvania Game Commissionwas shot and killed while arresting someone for spotlighting deer and poaching.  David was a good guy who loved the Lord and loved his job. 

The full story is here if you’d like to read it.  Please pray for the Grove family and the many who were touched by David.

Would this murder have happened if he had been prayed for more?  Obviously God is the only One who can answer that, but we all should be reminded from now on to remember these servants in prayer.  They serve us and, according to Romans 13:4, are God’s ministers to us.

Thank God for these who answer an important call of our society and sacrifice so much to keep order.  And thank God for David Grove.