“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Jesus Christ (Luke 6:27)
There has probably never been a time in this country, at least in my life time, that law enforcement is hated and despised as the days in which we now live. Certainly those who wear the badge have always had their share of enemies. But I personally believe these days are different in that the hatred and animosity is much more in our face. Even many who have been supportive of law enforcement have now seemed to turn against them. And with every inappropriate action we take in the course of our duties I believe the “enemy pool” gets a little bit bigger.
With that said, what do we do with the words of Jesus who says that we are to love our enemy? I have been scratching my head over this for a while now and so I thought I would offer my thoughts on the matter.
Now before I go any further with this I want to be very clear about something. I am in no way suggesting that loving our enemy means being soft on crime, tolerant of those who break the law or allow violence and violent criminals to have their way in society. I hold fast to the truth that is found in Romans 13 where it is written:
“For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” (Romans 13:4-5)
I am also not suggesting that these words from the Bible gives us the freedom as “agents of wrath” to use unlawful force, violate the constitutional rights of anyone and do what is necessary to punish the wrongdoer even if it means violating the oath we took to upload the law and defend the constitution.
But just who is our enemy? Jesus said our enemy is “those who hate you”, “those who curse you” and “those who mistreat you.” Another extra-biblical source defines an enemy has “a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another.” I think that pretty much hits the nail on the head and describes what we are seeing in just about every city in this country. I believe it is this hatred that is driving those who are all about defunding the police and even abolishing the police all together. And yet, you cannot argue with the fact that Jesus tells us to love such people. And by the way the word “love” that Jesus uses carries the meaning of loving someone more than one’s own life. This is important when we have those incidents when our enemy becomes a victim of a crime.
It is the natural tendency of mankind to hate rather than love.
Love takes effort and deliberateness and is sometimes risky. Some may say that love is not a feeling but an act of the will. So I’m not talking about “warm and fuzzy feelings” per se. I believe that a big part of this kind of love is a mindset or a frame of mind. It is also a matter of the heart since it is the heart from which flows the kind of hatred, animosity and maltreatment that we are all too familiar with and that is the extreme opposite of the kind of love Jesus is talking about.
Those of us in law enforcement have so many reasons to hate those who are so adamantly against us, especially when our enemy takes the life of one of our own. And there are those with whom we work side by side everyday that has something against us that could cause us to hate then. All of this brings me to the question, how do we as cops love our enemy? How do we not hate those who have something against us? May I humbly offer some thoughts on how we might obey Jesus’ command?
I think it can start with learning how to look beyond the actions of our enemies and consider why they have this hatred or animosity and why they are the way they are. We are now being trained on how to do this with those who suffer from mental illness that leads to a crisis event. Understanding what may be causing this person to be in crisis helps us in the way we deal with that person appropriately. Maybe we can try to shift our thinking in this way. I believe that this is exactly what Jesus did when He was hanging on the cross at the hands of those who hated Him with a vengeance when He said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
If we can pull this off I believe it will make a difference in how we treat those who hate us, how we talk to them and how we react to their acts of hostility and mistreatment. I know it sounds like some kind of “pie in the sky” belief. I also know that loving our enemy is not necessarily going to change the way they feel about us.
Indeed, it is a lot to ask and some may think it is impossible to love those who are willfully and intentionally trying to bring us down. But I can’t escape the fact that this is what Jesus calls us to do.
Hopefully I have given everyone something to think about and I welcome any comments and even rebuttals.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16