We know that many Christians, have a very poor view of law enforcement. They are under the misconception that the Father and Christ Jesus do not look favorably on those whose job involves the use of weapons such as police officers and military personnel. We hope, by way of this article, to counter such erroneous ideas and reasons for judging and stumbling, or, at the very least, to cause our brothers to consider the human element in law enforcement.
Jesus is indeed the Prince of Peace who counseled against the use of violence against one another. But he never condemned those whose job it was to protect and serve the ends of justice by the superior authorities “that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1) Notice how he dealt with a military officer he encountered:
“And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. “For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believe.” And the servant was healed that very moment.”
– Matthew 8:5-13
In the parallel account in Luke, we noticed that neither did the ‘elders of the Jews’ condemn the officer:
“When he had completed what he had to say to the people, he entered Capernaum. Now an army officer’s slave, who was dear to him, was seriously ill and about to pass away. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some elders of the Jews to him to ask him to come and make his slave well. They came up to Jesus and began to plead with him earnestly, saying: “He is worthy of your granting him this, for he loves our nation and he himself built our synagogue.”
– Luke 7:1-5
And in the Acts of the Apostles, we see the honored position held by another army officer in the sight of God:
“Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, “Cornelius!” And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.”
– Acts 10:1-4
We acknowledge that there are historical reports that the early Christians did not serve in the Roman military, but that does not mean that Christians in other lands refused to serve. Recall that the Romans were complicit in the execution of Jesus, and were very aggressive in crucifying and impaling his followers, even throwing many, including women, to the lions. So it is no surprise that the followers of Christ would refuse to join the Roman army. However, about the same time in Christian history, many brothers were scattered abroad ‘to the most distant parts of the earth’ and we have no historical records of their conduct in connection with law enforcement, as to whether they refused to participate in military service because of their faith.
But more importantly, a careful review of the Biblical record reveals that there are no instructions or commands from Jesus, not even from the apostles, that a Christian was forbidden to join the military or organized law enforcement. The actions of others may be informative, but they are not tantamount to spiritual or religious directives.
Jesus had no problem with the employment choices of his followers as is evident from his open acceptance of Matthew, who held the unpopular job of tax collector. (Matthew 9:9) The only restriction Jesus ever laid in the matter of employment was to his twelve apostles as they went out on their missionary tours. (Matthew 10:1-42) The apostles, unlike the disciples, were set apart as full-time ministers. Today, full-time ministers who can make room for it must likewise refrain from accepting employment, of whatever type, that would prevent them from devoting the necessary time to their ministry.
In truth, our Father recognizes the need for an organized society to have governmental authorities who can enforce their laws, and He clearly authorizes it, as Paul wrote:
“For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”
– Romans 13:3-4
Police and military forces serve as protectors of justice. They serve to help and rescue those in need, and punish those who violate laws and civil peace. It is by means of their service that the rest of us can go about our business and sleep at night in relative peace, and exercise freedom of religion, freedom of speech and conduct our ministry without undue fear of harassment.
Of course, law enforcement is subject to abuse and corruption, just like any other agency run by men, including religious agencies and authorities. But throughout history and down to the present day, more harm is done to mankind by means of illegitimate, abusive and arrogant theocracies than from law enforcement. Corrupt police officers may kill the body, but corrupt religious authorities can kill our spiritual future, as Jesus said:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”
– Matthew 23:15
We appreciate those who have the courage to join law enforcement. And we, likewise, respect those who choose for personal reasons not to do so. But we cannot respect those who hypocritically judge the spiritual standing of law enforcement personnel while at the same time calling on them for help when their security is threatened, and enjoying the peace and security their service provides.
Some might be surprised to know that many high ranking and/or highly visible religious leaders, of practically every denomination, have body guards who carry weapons that they will use for the personal protection of such leaders. It seems hypocritical to approve of these guards, but disapprove of civil guards. Really, wouldn’t we want those in law enforcement to be of the best character? Wouldn’t it be a good idea if police officers accepted their sonship with God and therefore viewed the public whom they ‘protect and serve’ as their spiritual brothers first? There surely would be far fewer incidents of police brutality!
We feel more safe knowing that there are men and women in law enforcement who love the Father and Christ Jesus and who view their job as a service to their brothers. And we thank all who make the personal choice to pursue this honorable career.