First, we must seek wisdom from the Word of God and then we will dive into solutions. Jesus called us to be disciples of truth (Mark 16:15), leaders of love (John 13:34), stewards of Christ (1 Peter 4:10), and a light in the darkness (2 Cor 4:6). One specific darkness we are called to shine light onto can be found in 1 John 2:11, “But anyone who HATES a brother or sister in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.”
We are called to be the light against the darkness of hate by being leaders of Love. When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment in the law; he replied “….to love GOD with all your heart and that the second is to Love your neighbor as yourself”. Jesus knew that we’d find ourselves surrounded by hate today, Jesus knew that Christians throughout time would be able to fight hate and injustice with love, Jesus knew that we needed to know that LOVE is always the answer. So as we find ourselves in a time where racism is more visible than ever, and where we have seen the injustice in abuse of power by some of law enforcement…….we must ask ourselves, “How would Christ want the Church to shine light into the darkness?”
Well to find our full potential in an answer we must first soak in the wisdom of God. We are told in Proverbs 27:17 that “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another”. We are reminded of how to be of service to others in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 when we are urged to “encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all”. The message that most speaks to me in looking for guidance can be found in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
As we look at the life of Jesus and the expectations shared throughout the Word of God, it is made clear that Christ called his followers to “ensure justice”. If you glean from the life of Jesus you can see the examples of taking action and confronting evil, to care for the vulnerable, and to make right which is wrong. As I learn from the life of Christ, I believe there is no more relevant example of love, forgiveness, standing up, speaking out, and courage than when Jesus prevented the stoning of an adulteress. In no way did he condone her actions, or say that wrong is right, but he did challenge the manner of “justice”.
So we KNOW Christians are to lead the charge against injustice and hate, where do we start? I want to specifically look at our opportunities with law enforcement and their relationship with our communities. The church has an advantage in many communities, as the leaders of these communities are often Church leaders. The Boston PD and Reverend Jeffrey Brown is a great example of a place to start. Within the city of Boston, years ago, law enforcement officers and local leaders of Christianity worked together to improve the relationship between the department and the community. Due to these efforts, the city of Boston has moved forward more than many other cities. As the Bible teaches us, COMMUNITY WINS! So that leads us to the first action to consider:
#1: Has your local faith community worked on building a relationship with your local department?
Have they united as Christians to create a local coalition? There are many ways in which this can transpire, such as, luncheons, allowing facilities to host meetings, or even working to foster meet and greets between officers and the community. Speak with the department leadership in a Christ-like manner by asking “How can we serve you to help you better serve the community”. Remember that Christ served his disciples, Judas included, by washing their feet, to help them best understand the servants they would need to be moving forward. No better way to show the love of Christ than through serving. Hallelujah! Now as we reflect on serving like Christ, what more can we do? Oh, so much more.
#2: Invite officers to visit the church and community events.
If your partnership with the Mayor or Chief of police is strong, they’ll create awareness, if it is not then we must strive to make individual officers aware of these opportunities. Facebook is a blessing for these types of opportunities. Depending on your building availability and hours, let officers know that they are welcome to come in, use your restroom, grab a cup of coffee, or be prayed for when possible. Start with the beat officers from your neighborhood.
#3: Offer your facilities for training opportunities or meeting rooms.
Law enforcement agencies are often looking for locations to host classroom lectures and other training sessions. Possibly you may offer this space for free with the expectation that you’ll be able to lead an opening and closing prayer, as well as potentially speaking. I’ve assisted in helping churches and departments make these connections; and have seen church leaders have the potential to provide a small, relevant sermon to the group. I’ve witnessed this lead to the baptism of officers in following weeks. Praise the Lord!
#4: Hold a “Sports with a cop” or “Pizza with Police” event.
This type of casual forum encourages members of your community to meet the officers who patrol their neighborhoods. I was even blessed to help create a “Dance off” between teams that consisted of officers and community members. I’ve seen this encourage departments to introduce new officer recruits, or patrol changes, during these events. This experience is one I cannot stress enough changes the dynamic of communities. Officers can provide information on enforcement activities, crime prevention and response plans for the neighborhood, while the community shares concerns to a listening ear; all while connecting. Blessings!
#5: Invite officers to participate in church or local activities.
Including officers in your activities (as coaches in after-school sports, Big Brothers for at-risk youth, judges in your talent contest, etc.) helps to develop partnerships with your community. If you are building this with the cooperation of multiple faith organizations, this can be a large community event. As you are asking officers to participate, they feel more apart of the community they serve, as well as bringing together congregations from throughout the community. I’ve helped organize charity events between departments and multiple churches where hundreds of officers participated and connected with the community.
#6: Prayer groups.
Routinely provide a way that officers or the department can submit prayer requests for the challenges they are facing as a group or individuals. Let them know they are being prayed for regardless of their connection to your church. AMEN!
#7: Have a connect group for police officers.
(Christ-like Policing or Serve and Protect like Christ) It will lead to incredible opportunities to serve the officers in these groups with incredible blessings. Educating them how to be more Christ-like in their job, how to speak up like Christ, or even hearing from the community and learning. I have seen it used in ways to humanize the badge to the community, but also the community to the badge. I participated in a group that met weekly, but it also offered the officers countless and private prayers and/or counseling. In addition, once a month they had a community member visit to speak share with the officers beneficial and relevant dialogue.
Finally, there may already be Christian Police officer groups within your community that you can also learn to connect with and serve. Do some searching through Facebook groups and Google to see what may already exist in your community to find additional opportunities.
What is the depth of the benefits? Well most importantly, I pray that you can see how these actions model our Prince of PEACE, Jesus Christ. In addition, there are many benefits that I expressed throughout here, as well as some that depends on the depth of these efforts. So, I will leave you with a few bonus benefits that are community changing.
More officers strive to police more like Christ. This includes offers that are not followers of Jesus.
This sets an incredible example to your community as well of “What Would Jesus Do?”
These actions and more can create a true partnership with the department that changes its community relations dynamic.
Good police leadership will see what officers are involving themselves with these community events and often look to promote or expand the responsibilities of these officers.
The Police department receives feedback from the community with an open heart and mind.
The community receives feedback from the Police Department with an open heart and mind.
IT HUMANIZES! It really shows that we are all children of God. Dehumanizing is the poison within departments and communities that leads to the hateful actions we see today. In these actions listed above you are not just “Humanizing the badge” you are also “Humanizing the community”. You are leading with love in a Christ-like manner that allows God to shine incredible light in the darkness!
For maximum success, most of this requires willing Police leadership/Mayor cooperation. However, if a Mayor or Chief nixes it. Remind yourself, Christ took three years committed to change. Keep making attempts with patrol officers, sergeants, lieutenants, etc. Be loving, be persistent, be prayerful. Do not speak to your congregation in a tone of defeat that the department is not as cooperative as you would like, this will hurt more than help. Be resilient, be creative, and be resourceful. Also remain steadfast in knowing that most officers truly want to “serve and protect” not be an authoritarian ruler that becomes judge, jury, and executioner. Finally, I would encourage a committed, consistent, dedicated prayer group you spend time praying for these specific resolutions, injustices, solutions and improvement. If I can help you, your department, your church, or your community leadership clarify or creatively connect, please reach out.