To Serve and Protect
“To Serve and Protect,” But Who Will Protect Us?
Murder by police officer in South Carolina continues a pattern of abuse of power by law enforcement.
The news out of South Carolina this week that a police officer had shot and killed an unarmed man has prompted an outpouring of emotion. A bystander --who watched helplessly as the events unfolded -- had the presence of mind to capture the abuse of power on a video. This provided incontrovertible evidence that an injustice had been done, and the North Charleston police department acted swiftly by arresting, and then firing, the officer.
The family of Walter Scott – the citizen who was gunned down in cold blood – is joined by millions of Americans who mourn his death, while wondering when such abuses of power will be curbed. What will it take, we wonder, for our public safety officers – hired to “serve and protect” – to exercise the reasonable judgment necessary to stop these needless acts of violence?
Though it will be up to a court of law to balance the heinous act by Patrolman Slager with the appropriate punishment, we can turn to three biblical passages to help us process how God views such abuses of power.
In Romans 13:1-5, it is made clear that the authority we have entrusted in police officers does not mean we have appointed them a surrogate for God’s judgment. It reads: “Let everyone put himself under the authority of the higher powers, because there is no power which is not of God, and all powers are ordered by God… For he is the servant of God to you for good. But if you do evil, have fear; for the sword is not in his hand for nothing: he is God's servant, making God's punishment come on the evil-doer.”
Psalms 7:9-17 reminds us of the consequences that face the police officer (evil-doer): “O let the evil of the evil-doer come to an end, but give strength to the upright: for men's minds and hearts are tested by the God of righteousness.
God, who is the savior of the upright in heart, is my breastplate. God is the judge of the upright, and is angry with the evil-doers every day.
If a man is not turned from his evil, he will make his sword sharp; his bow is bent and ready. He has made ready for him the instruments of death; he makes his arrows flames of fire.”
Continuing: “That man is a worker of evil; the seed of wrongdoing has given birth to deceit. He has made a hole deep in the earth, and is falling into the hole which he has made His wrongdoing will come back to him, and his violent behavior will come down on his head.”
Finally, Acts 16:37-38 shows us how God deals with those who, like Patrolman Slager, exact punishment without a mandate: “But Paul said to them, They have given us who are Romans a public whipping without judging us, and have put us in prison. Will they now send us out secretly? no, truly, let them come themselves and take us out. And the police gave an account of these words to the authorities, and they were full of fear on hearing that they were Romans.”
It is thus that we hope our readers will seek solace in His words as they seek to make sense of something so senseless. The Bible will lift and comfort the family of Walter Scott in this time of need; but so, too, should it remind us that God will ultimately decree how justice should rightfully be served.