I heard part of an interview with a Birmingham area police officer. I was half-way listening as I was driving back from a hospital visit. I wish I had heard the entire interview. There are a few reasons the interview caught my attention: 1) My next-door neighbor is a campus police officer at the University of Alabama, 2) the man across the street is a detective with the city of Tuscaloosa, 3) my friends (and church members), Mike, Adam, and Harold are all active or retired officers with Tuscaloosa and Northport PD. 4) Andrew, our son, is a Criminal Justice Major and security officer at Faulkner University. 5) Plus, what this officer said had application beyond law enforcement.
When asked about the impact of officer misconduct and abuses of authority by officers across the nation, his replied was along the following thoughts.
In any profession there are good and bad people. As police officers we watch these videos on the news and on social media and wonder what led the officer to act that way. Is there more to the story than the clip we are watching? There always is. Is that officer under a lot of stress at home or suffering in some other way?
Then he added these thoughts, I have to remind our officers, that what we do as police in Birmingham, Alabama impacts officers in Baltimore, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and all over. The image we create by our actions determines what the public thinks of officers in other places. What officers in other places do or how they act also impacts how the public sees us. We must always be professional, responsible, and careful.
When I heard this I thought of my neighbors, friends, and Andrew. I thought about the role and responsibilities they have. I stopped and prayed for them.
I also thought about the words of Jesus and of Paul,
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
” . . . but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:8-17)
What about the example I set?
What I do as a Christian in Tuscaloosa impacts not only the Church at Central, but the churches in Tuscaloosa County, the churches in Alabama, the churches in the South Eastern United States, as well as all over the world. The example I set reflects on the Church as a whole and on Christ whom I serve. The impression that people have of the Church, or Christians, and of Christ can be either positive or negative because of me.
What do others thing of Christians because of the example you and I set?