Monday, February 26, 2007

"I Am A Murderer" -- Confession of a Police Officer

Any officer who says he or she hasn't hated, loathed, been angry with, maligned with words, or cursed a criminal is, in my estimation, a liar. Strong words, I know. I can make such a strong assertion because I am guilty of doing all of these things. In fact, I have a confession to make. I am guilty of murder.

"Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (1 John 3:15).

"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good for nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell" (Matt. 5:21-22).

Although police officers are not guilty of murder if they take a life to protect their own lives or the lives of others, they are guilty of murder according to God's standard of moral perfection every time they curse another person, harbor anger or bitterness in their heart toward other people, or feel hatred toward other people. As is the case when we break any of God's commands, the just penalty for violating of the Sixth Commandment against murder is death (Romans 6:23).

With the above in mind, where is the line between righteous indignation and sinful anger?

Ephesians 4:26-27 says, "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity."

In Ephesians 4:26, Paul quotes Psalm 4:4. "Tremble, and do not sin; meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still." The word "tremble" is to be understood as trembling with anger or fear.

Here are two examples of righteous anger exhibited by the sinless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

"And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables" (John 2:15).

"And after looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored" (Mark 3:5).

Pastor John MacArthur wrote: "[Righteous] anger hates injustice, immorality, ungodliness, and every other sin" (MacArthur Study Bible; note on Ephesians 4:26). Police officers with integrity and character should feel the same way as the Lord Jesus Christ about injustice, immorality, and ungodliness. However, the moment an officer’s integrity and character falters, allowing those feelings of righteous indignation to deteriorate into feelings of bitterness, jealousy, revengeful anger, prejudice; it is at that point that righteous indignation becomes unrighteousness and sin.

I was involved in a shooting on February 6, 1993. A chronic user of methamphetamine tried to run over me and another deputy with a stolen car. While the suspect was trying to kill me, my eldest daughter was on the operating table, at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles.

When the dust settled, the suspect was sitting behind the wheel of the car, very much alive, and laughing. While I was sending rounds down-range, trying to stop the suspect, I was rightly angry with the man because of his willful disobedience of my lawful commands, and his obvious desire to harm my fellow deputy and me.

However, when I saw the man laughing behind the wheel, those feelings of righteous indignation quickly turned to sinful rage. My involvement in the shooting meant I would miss my daughter's surgery. I knew I would spend the next several hours at the station talking to investigators and other department officials. Not only did this criminal try to kill me, but he was also keeping me from my little girl. And he was laughing. I hated him, and I wanted to kill him--not because He violated the law, but because he was laughing and he was keeping me from my daughter’s bedside. He was keeping me from providing comfort to my wife who was sitting, all alone, in the surgical waiting room. I was so enraged; I climbed onto the hood of the stolen car. I held the barrel of my gun a couple of inches from the windshield, directly in front of the suspect's face. I was going to execute him. I wanted to kill him.

During the incident, my use of deadly force was justified by policy, by civil law, and by Scripture (Romans 13:1-5). However, when I climbed on the hood of the car, I was no longer enforcing the law. I was intent on inflicting punishment--not as a rule of law, but to satisfy my need for revenge and to appease my feelings of hatred toward the suspect. My indignation was no longer righteous. I was now sinning against God. I was a murderer-at-heart.

In God's eyes, according to His standard of moral perfection, the anger and bitterness I harbored in my heart toward the suspect was no different than the physical harm the suspect tried to commit against my person. I was a murderer-at-heart, just like the criminal who tried to kill me.

A clear indicator that our anger or indignation is unrighteous is if we lay our head on the pillow seething over a real or perceived offense (in word or deed) committed against us. We drift off to sleep thinking about the negative, hurtful thing we would say if we could go back to that offensive moment in time. We fall asleep plotting our revenge, planning how we will make the person who offended us pay for their crime (real or perceived) against us. We fall asleep finding solace, even joy, knowing in our heart that we have no intention of forgiving the offending party.

God’s Word not only identifies the sin issue (murder), but it also provides the remedy. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).

Police officers become angry and sin, just like everyone else. The law enforcement family draws from the same fallible human race as every other profession and sub-culture. Police officers are exposed to the very worst man can do to his fellow man, on a daily basis. It is difficult not to develop a hardness of heart and general resentment toward the criminal element and an often-indifferent populace. Be that as it may, while there may be reasons for violating the Law of God, there is never an excuse. No one will stand before God on the Day of Judgment and be able to use a “guilty with an explanation” as an affirmative defense. God, being perfectly good, will judge in righteousness. And those whom He judges will spend eternity in hell as the just punishment for their sins against God.

Do you get angry and sin? Do you justify your sinful anger? Have you not repented of your sin? “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5a)! Do you claim to be Christian, yet we willfully ignore the Jesus Christ’s very clear warning? “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matt. 6:14-15).

Are you like me? Have you committed murder in your heart, through your anger, bitterness, and hatred toward others? If this were your only sin against God, the Lord will still judge you as if you had broken all of His Law. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10).

Your only hope is Jesus Christ. There is only one way to avoid the wrath to come. “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And iIf anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the [payment] for our sins” (1 John 2:-1-2a). Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, died on the cross to pay the full penalty for your sins. Not only did Jesus Christ take the punishment death sentence that was due to you, He rose again, defeating death. And He is alive today!

You know in your heart that you are guilty before God. Your conscience testifies against you. Confess your sins to the Judge of the Universe, then repent (turn away from your sins) and throw yourself upon the mercy of the only One who can save your life. Believe with your heart that Jesus is the Son of God. Submit to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior— so that “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Only then will God grant you a pardon and give you the gift of eternal life.

1 comment:

Scott Meadows said...

Your message is very true. I am a police officer, and I have felt rage similar to what you felt that day. Your message is a good reminder, and will help me to avoid those feelings in the future.
May God continue to bless your ministry.