Sunday, April 10, 2011

A THEOLOGY FOR GUNSLINGERS

ARTICLE WRITTEN FOR THE LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFFS DEPARTMENT

Though the modern idea of a police force is less than two hundred years old, the concept of community protection is ancient. The biblical book of Genesis tells of Pharaoh’s Captain of the Guard who served more as a civil than military functionary. Throughout the Jewish scriptures are references to watchmen whose duty required them to guard the city gates, stand watch on the walls and keep the city lamps burning throughout the night.

In speaking to a crowd, John the Baptist told them to share with those in need. Some tax collectors spoke up and asked, "what should we do?" John told them, "don't collect any more than you are required to." Finally, some soldiers—militia—had the same question for John, "…and what about us?" they asked. John replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay."
To my mind, John's exhortation to the crowd is nothing more than we would expect from a preacher. However, John's word for tax collectors and soldiers is NOTHING that the people of that day—or even our own—would expect.
Many good people at that time believed tax collectors—lousy, quisling, Roman puppets—had lost any hope of salvation. Yet here they are seeking baptism and, therefore, repenting. And John's word to them is NOT, go to H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks, or even to abandon their evil profession. He simply tells them to do their job honestly.
But I find John's response to the militia truly eye-opening. It makes no difference whether these were Roman soldiers or Jewish Temple police. John does not condemn their profession either. In fact, he gives them the same word he gave the tax collectors. Do your job honestly, with integrity. Absent, I notice, is any prohibition against practicing the warrior's arts (that's intellectual talk for meting out violence and death).
So here's my point: In a fallen world it is part of God's economy for our civil police forces—warriors of integrity—to protect us from those who would practice evil.

Thus endeth the lesson.

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