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Illegal Orders

Briefing: What are you willing to take a stand for? Where do you draw the line when it comes to your faith?

Dispatch (Assignment): Read John 7:45-53.

On the Street: This is a great story for Christian law enforcement. The focus on this passage is usually on the unbelief of the chief priest and the Pharisees but I want us to focus on the temple guards. The temple guards were a small specialized police force in Jerusalem during the days of Jesus. Remember, the Jewish government of Jesus’ time was all encompassing. The Jewish leaders were the authority over civil, criminal, and religious laws. The enforcement branch of their government was the temple guards.

Looking at these verses we see that the Pharisees gave the police officers orders to arrest Jesus and bring Him to them. This was an illegal order. Jesus had not been accused of committing any crime or violating any rules. We see in verse 45 that the police returned empty handed. The police officers did not blindly follow orders to arrest a man who had broken no laws. I am encouraged by the verses that follow. Instead of rushing in and placing Him under arrest, they listened to what Jesus had to say and were convinced He was who He said He was, the Messiah.

When the temple guards/police officers did not bring Jesus back with them the Pharisees wanted to know why. The police officers responded, “No one ever spoke the way this man does” John 7:46 (NIV). These cops had a decision to make. This is not a passage that you hear great sermons preached about. As a matter of fact, I have never heard a sermon, Bible study, or lesson ever taught about the actions of these officers. Not many people understand the possible implications over the decision they made. They disobeyed a direct order to arrest a political enemy of their bosses. We don’t read what the outcome of their stand against an illegal order was but that does not really matter. The fact is, they thought for themselves and judged correctly. They made the right decision and took the correct action.

Most people, even some among our own ranks, believe that police officers blindly follow orders without checking the validity of the directive. The three pronged test to any direct order is: is the order legal, moral, and ethical?

In 2011, there was a story that made national headlines about a police captain, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who was reassigned because he refused to order his subordinates to attend an event at a local mosque.

At first, the department asked for volunteers to attend a “police appreciation day” at the local mosque. This event included a presentation on Islamic beliefs. In short, it was a proselytizing event, a chance for the Muslim community to share their faith and attempt to win over believers to their religion.

This began as a voluntary opportunity for all Tulsa PD officers. When there were no volunteers, the Deputy Chief of Police directed the Majors, who passed on the orders to the Captains, to order officers from each shift to attend. One of those police Captains was Paul Fields. Captain Fields wrote a response to the Deputy Chief that the order was “an unlawful order, as it is in direct conflict with my personal religious convictions, as well as to be conscience shocking.” He refused to order any of his employees to attend the event.

Captain Fields was ordered to appear in the Police Chief’s conference room/office. Once again Captain Fields stood his ground. At the conclusion of the meeting, he was force transferred to another division as well as being put on notice that he was going to be investigated by Internal Affairs for “Duty to be Truthful and Obedient”. The transfer stripped him of his command and tarnished his stellar reputation as a police officer.

In June of 2011, Captain Fields was punished for exercising his constitutional rights. He was suspended without pay for 10 days. This action prohibited him from being considered for future promotions for one year and he was further punished by being assigned to the graveyard shift. The case is still active.

I spoke with Captain Fields while writing this devotional and learned that he is still in the midst of the battle. His story is very inspirational and encouraging to men and women of faith who take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America. Because of the ongoing litigation, he could not comment on the incident. The facts, circumstances, and information contained in this devotional were obtained through articles that I read on the internet.

On a personal note, Captain Fields related that his faith has endured and grown through this trial. He mentioned several times how it has drawn his family closer together and in particular his relationship with his wife.

Captain Paul Fields took a stand for his faith and in defense of the officers who worked for him. He is a modern day Christian warrior who bows down only at the feet of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (HCSB).

Investigational Resources: Read your oath of office and see what you have sworn to protect and uphold. Where on the list is the Constitution of the United States of America? The other investigational resource, and the greatest resource of all, is God’s Word. In it, we find the ultimate authority on right and wrong, good and evil, and life and death.

Officer Safety Principle: Do you have the courage to take a stand for Jesus Christ?

from The Gospel of John Through the Eyes of a Cop
©by Charles Gilliland. Used by permission.
Click here to check out the entire Through the Eyes of a Cop series!