Law Enforcement and the Gospel

July 15, 2016  |  Craig St. John

Alton Sterling.

Philando Castile.

Lorne Ahrens.

Michael Krol.

Michael J. Smith.

Brent Thompson.

Patrick Zamarripa.

Men created imago Dei—in the image of God. No matter the hashtag, that matters.

As the Church, we cry out for justice. We lament. We ask how long, O Lord?

We don’t rush to judgment. While prayerful, we listen. We hear multiple perspectives. We weep with all who weep.

We may not ever get answers. We may not ever see a solution.

But we remain hopeful. We place our trust in the King of the universe who is and will make all things new. A place where every tear will be wiped, and death will be no more.

The evil in our midst that we’re all too well aware of will pass away.

Come quickly, Lord!

Over the next several weeks, as we’re together listening, praying, lamenting, we’ll be hearing from multiple voices of laypeople in our congregation. Many who hold one perspective or another might have very strong feelings both for and against what is written. Those opinions are quite evident on social media. Here, rather than fostering a community of mudslinging, we wish to foster one of unity, even amid a diversity of viewpoints. With humility and respect, we listen to these perspectives from real brothers and sisters in Christ with real experiences and real pain and real wisdom. Together, we enter into the conversation as listeners who are slow to speak.

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Heather Brennan is a police dispatcher and 911 operator, and she is a member of Redemption Tempe. The following are five ways she says you can be specifically praying for your local law enforcement community. Her father is a retired police major with AZDPS, and her brother is currently an officer in a small town outside of Phoenix. The following prayer requests flow from her own experience working in law enforcement, as well as observations of her own family as they endeavored to serve and protect over the years.

  • When we were created in the garden, God gave us dominion over the earth, but our hearts weren’t created with sin in mind or the intention that we would one day have to police our fellow man. Once sin entered the picture, he allowed us to set up worldly authorities, but the idea that we have to police our fellow man is not natural and is evidence only of the fall.

Please pray for our hearts, that our earthly authority given us would stem from humble submission to God as the ultimate authority. Pray that we would constantly be aware of our own sin and need for a savior, too.

  • Being confronted with the depravity of this world on a daily basis does things to a person. It’s not unusual for first responders to suffer from a psychological condition called “compassion fatigue”. This is the mind’s defense mechanism in response to constantly being confronted with heartbreaking situations. Your mind creates a barrier against these things in order to survive and function, and many people in law enforcement long enough find it difficult at times to feel for the heartache of others, or may actively neglect to out of self-preservation.

Pray God would heal our minds and hearts from the depravity we’ve seen and that God would empower us with the capacity to continue to empathize with others even in the midst of sin, as Christ does with us.

  • First responders live an isolated life. As if their job didn’t isolate them enough from society, they work holidays, weekends, and night shifts, which isolates them further. So naturally they find themselves forming friendships outside of work with other first responders, and their connection to “the outside world” dwindles away. It’s easy for your worldview to become very narrow if you can’t escape and reset from the mindset of this work.

 Pray for your local police employees to find supportive community outside of law enforcement.

  • When confronted with a high-risk/stressful situation, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol into your bloodstream. This is rare occurrence for most people, but a first responder may experience this several times a day. It takes cortisol a long time to detox from your body, therefore many first responders can suffer from cortisol poisoning in the blood. Cortisol puts your body into survival mode and suppresses unnecessary brain functions, and once the “high” is over, it leaves the sufferer feeling fatigued, irritable, depressed, and disconnected until it has detoxed from your body. First responders rarely have enough time off for this process to be completed, which means that it’s possible for an officer to be performing highly at work and give the appearance of being in control, but go home to their family nursing a fractured mental state. This is not something officers can be open about with their peers at work, lest they seem weak or undependable, nor could they be open about with their superiors lest they seem incapable. They suffer these things in silence and their family bears the brunt. On top of this, due to understaffing and high turnover, they must work overtime, find it difficult to secure vacation time, & feel guilty utilizing sick time.

Pray for mental restoration outside of work and healthy family time.

  • Since the Dallas shootings, there has been an increase in police being lured and ambushed—in many more ways than you are seeing on the news.

Pray for safety and diffusion of situations without resulting in the loss of life on either end of the confrontation. Pray that God would be present and guide police, especially in any split-second moment they are forced to make a life or death choice, and may Christ be present as comforter and healer in the aftermath.