If you have not considered what God has to say about your role in law enforcement, you may be surprised at how much He has to say and how specifically He says it. Romans 13, subtitled in the NIV, “Submission to Governing Authorities,” is written to the First Century AD citizens of Rome on how to respond to the authority of the government. Looking at the first 14 verses of that chapter from the perspective of the authorities, rather than that of the governed, maps out the responsibilities of the agents of government. It is in these verses that your calling as a police officer is made clear. In fact, a case can be made that this is actually a job description and a mission statement for the law enforcement officer:
There is a lot in these few verses to consider, more than can be covered in this single post. So please use the following thoughts as a starting place to consider what you have been called to as a police officer.
1. You have been appointed to your office by God.
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Romans 13:1
Whether you believe it or not, whether you are a Christian or not, you have been appointed into your position by God. If you are a follower of Jesus and a police officer do not miss this as your calling. You have been called by God and appointed to a position of authority and he has much more to say to you about that.
2. Your authority ultimately comes from God.
Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. – Romans 13:2
3. You must discern good from evil and use your authority to protect the innocent and bring justice.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. – Romans 13:3
You must train yourself to distinguish good from evil and act accordingly (Manual of a Christian Knight Rule #6). Consider carefully God’s promise to those subject to earthly authority and what that means to you. Those that do good must be unafraid. Not only unafraid, they must receive praise from you.
4. Your authority includes the use of force – even deadly force.
For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. – Romans 13:4
Be very clear, the police officer’s role is one of many in the justice system. Your individual role is not to execute God’s wrath or administer punishment, but to bring those who do evil into the system to be held accountable. The sword is symbolic of the physical force you have been given the authority to use. You have been appointed to bear that sword to protect the innocent.
5. You are subject to the same authority you carry. You must respect law and be fair with everyone.
Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. – Romans 13:5-7
This is context on the role you serve as a police officer as one of many. No matter what your role, you are also a member of the community and subject to the same laws.
6. You are to love the people and the community you have been called to serve.
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. – Romans 13:8-10
It is no accident that The Greatest Commandment follows here. It is the foundation of servant leadership, leading as Jesus led. It is also the way that Jesus wants you to see everyone you serve. There is a little more on this written here.
7. You are to live a life that is above reproach.
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. – Romans 13:11-14
This is what is asked of all Christians, but it belongs in the mission because it deserves the emphasis. Consider what is asked here with the gravity of the assignment you have accepted. Represent yourself, your office and your God well.
- You have been appointed to your office by God.
- Your authority ultimately comes from God.
- You must discern good from evil.
- You must use your authority to protect the innocent and bring justice.
- Your authority includes the use of force – including deadly force.
- You are subject to the same authority you carry.
- You must respect law and be fair to all.
- You are to love the people and community you serve.
- You are to live a life that is above reproach.
When you discover your mission, you will feel its demand. It will fill you with enthusiasm and a burning desire to get to work on it.- W. Clement Stone