The experiences of being a cop at 24 years of age did not take long to form a growing chip on my shoulder towards the people that received a ride to jail in my backseat. I could feel the coldness growing around my heart and the pride elevating me to think how much better I was than those whom I was dealing with. Here I was taking people twice my age to jail and I had already been a more productive member of society than they. How my pride stunk before a holy God.
Since that time God has done a joyful and glorious work in opening the eyes of my heart towards the wonder of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The only reason my heart did not continue to harden was because I realized that my biggest problem was the same problem that people I was dealing with at work had: sin. We both have a sin problem.
There is a tension in this for a street cop though. How can I have a humble heart and a kindness towards people that I may have to point a gun at? How do I remain tough and tender at the same time?
The amazing thing about the Bible is that it is full of paradoxes. Truths that seem to be counter towards each other but once understood through the help of the Holy Spirit bring freedom and joy. In one sense I can be tough towards people because Romans 13 warns that the government does not bear the sword in vain. The government is an extension of God’s vengeance, dealing out punishment to whom punishment is due. I love that picture as a cop and I embrace iy whole-heartedly. Yes, I am the sword and I must not be afraid to use it. I will use it if I have to and I will have the full pleasure of God behind me as I wield it correctly.
In another sense, the same God has commanded me to love my neighbor, and my neighbor may not be the one across my street that has his life put together neatly. Jesus told a story to a self-righteous lawyer in Luke 10 which explained that our neighbors may be those we despise the most. In the story a Jew provides aid to a beat up Samaritan that had been robbed. The Jews and Samaritans had a long standing hatred for each other that cut across race, religion, and culture. This Jew showed mercy to someone who was hard to love. This kind of mercy comes from a man that loves God with all of his heart, soul, and mind (Luke 10:27). This love is nothing less than a gift from God.
I can point a gun at someone justifiably and put handcuffs on them and pray for their soul while I am taking them to jail. This is perfectly in line with what the Bible teaches and it is a glorious paradox that helps me work in a profession of constant tension. Thank God for the gospel.