I am Christian and a Police Officer. Some would say those two things are incompatible and you can’t have one without compromising the other. Many people would expect a Christian to “turn the other cheek” and not use physical force to achieve something, especially lethal force. They may also have an image of Christians being weak, ineffectual and irrelevant. Others may have a preconceived notion that all Christians are hypocrites, prejudiced or bigoted. These would not be conducive to being an effective police officer, but many of these attitudes come from a misunderstanding of the Bible and what it really means to be a Christian, or from negative experiences of Christianity and the Church.
In many respects being a Christian in the police is the best place to be to put my faith into practice. I cannot think of any aspect of my work as a police officer that cannot be enhanced by my faith. As a Christian I am called to help those in need, the forgotten, helpless, weak, lost and vulnerable, those without a voice, those who have fallen into the gutter and cannot get out. It requires me to uphold the law and work for peace, have courage, perseverance, compassion, integrity, patience, self-control – the list goes on and on. All of these qualities and priorities overlap with those required of police officers.
I am not always the most faithful, committed or sincere Christian. I regularly get things wrong, I make mistakes both professionally and personally, and I stray off-course with my faith. I am only human. I do not pretend to have everything sorted, but this is exactly the reason why my faith is so important. I acknowledge that I am not perfect and that I need help. The amazing this about God is that he is not waiting for me to attain a goal, earn my way, or get everything right before he accepts me. I go to him as I am – broken, tired, selfish, and imperfect – and he helps me get back to my feet and press on. If I fall over, he picks me up again, as long as I am willing to be helped and acknowledge my own weakness and fallibility.
I can translate this directly into my work. I am not collecting spiritual credit with God by doing “good things” and serving my community. It doesn’t work like that. My acknowledgement of God comes first, I build a relationship with him, and I then want to do things to please him. It’s a bit like being married. I love my wife and have a deep relationship with her. I do things to demonstrate my love for her, not because I’m trying to score points or earn something, but simply because I want to please her.
I am no different from every other officer who cares about people and wants to make a difference, but I can point to a deep reason for helping people and I have added motivation when I don’t feel like doing it. There is nothing better than catching a criminal, bringing them to justice and protecting the victim. Does this mean that I am a better police officer than those who do not have a faith? Of course not, but being a Christian gives great meaning and purpose to my work ,that perhaps others don’t find. It also gives me strength to cope with some of the demands and stresses that I encounter.
I never force my faith on anyone, and if anything I tend to stay too quiet about it. I don’t cross professional boundaries by imposing my beliefs on colleagues or members of the public, however I hope that in some way I demonstrate God’s love through the way I conduct myself and deal with people.
I sometimes find that I am so immersed in the world of hatred, selfishness and pain as part of my job, that I lose faith in humanity. I have seen first-hand the deplorable things that people do to each other, the devastation that a minority can cause to the majority, the breakdown of relationships that lead to the fragmentation of our society, and the horrific tragedies that can befall people. Whilst it is difficult to reconcile the suffering in the world with a loving God, and although I don’t have all the answers to these complex issues, I have faith and I cling to the hope that can only be found in God.
One of my favourite parts of the Bible is the Psalms. They tell it like it is, they are written in the midst of turmoil, hardship and suffering, and yet they convey the message that despite all this, God is in control and can overcome anything. One of the Psalms I find most encouraging as a police officer is Psalm 27.
Check it out:
You, Lord, are the light that keeps me safe.
I am not afraid of anyone. You protect me, and I have no fears.
Brutal people may attack and try to kill me, but they will stumble.
Fierce enemies may attack, but they will fall.
Armies may surround me, but I won’t be afraid; war may break out, but I will trust you.
I ask only one thing, Lord:
Let me live in your house every day of my life to see how wonderful you are and to pray in your temple.
In times of trouble, you will protect me.
You will hide me in your tent and keep me safe on top of a mighty rock.
You will let me defeat all of my enemies.
Then I will celebrate, as I enter your tent with sacrifices and songs of praise.
Please listen when I pray! Have pity. Answer my prayer.
My heart tells me to pray. I am eager to see your face, so don’t hide from me.
I am your servant, and you have helped me.
Don’t turn from me in anger. You alone keep me safe.
Don’t reject or desert me. Even if my father and mother should desert me, you will take care of me.
Teach me to follow, Lord, and lead me on the right path because of my enemies.
Don’t let them do to me what they want.
People tell lies about me and make terrible threats, but I know I will live to see how kind you are.
Trust the Lord!
Be brave and strong and trust the Lord.