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Influence of our Environment

Briefing: Working in Southeast Dallas opened my eyes to a whole new world. It was a world I had only seen on television. I adapted to my new environment very quickly and it changed who I was.

Dispatch (Assignment): Read Psalm 120.

On the Street: How easy is it for us to point out the flaws in others? Jesus talked about this when He gave the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5.

You may ask yourself, what does Jesus’ teaching on hypocrisy have to do with Psalm 120? This is a straightforward psalm with a pretty simple message. When I come across anything that seems this simple and straightforward, I immediately become skeptical. I start looking for the hidden or deeper meaning. Isn’t that what we do as peace officers? After reading the first four verses, I had the thought this was not about my enemies tongue but about my own. This was not a pleasant thought but I decided to keep reading.

My tongue can be my own worst enemy. I have a hard time controlling it. I used to enjoy slashing opponents with quick comebacks and sharp rebuttals. Thankfully, through much prayer, hard work, and the help of the Lord, I am much better at holding my tongue, not perfect, but better. James chapter 3 is an excellent resource for taming the tongue.

Sticking with the thought of the tongue being ours and not or enemies, I was almost glad when I read verses 5-7, “Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek, that I live among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I lived among those who hate peace.” The psalmist lives among a people whose tongues are described in the first four verses. This did not seem to fit with the previous thought and could have been easily dismissed at that point. I decided to reread the chapter and start over.

After a second read, the Holy Spirit reminded me of Isaiah 6:5 that says, “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” We could say because we, like Isaiah, live among a people of unclean lips; it makes it hard for us to have clean lips.

Working in hard, rough neighborhoods where poverty and drugs are the normal everyday life, an officer can adapt and change to reflect their surroundings. They can start to mimic the language, violence, and apathy they live in. I speak about this from my own experiences of what I have seen and been involved with. A peace officer with the best intentions and desires can turn hard, cold, and calloused. Most times it is out of necessity and survival instincts. Just like the last verse of this chapter, “I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.”

Like this psalm, we could stop here and draw a battle line in the sand. My issue with this is we are followers of Jesus Christ. In John 13:34, He gave us a new command, “A new command I give you, Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” In Ephesians 6:12, the New Testament also tells us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” We must be the peace officers God has called us to be.

We must protect ourselves while we work in these dark places. We must do our jobs safely while protecting our brothers and sisters. We can do this in a way that reflects our great God and Savior. We don’t have to go out to our communities and be a hard, hateful, uncaring, calloused, police force. If we serve in a hard, dark community or we serve around a community full of Bible-believing, law enforcement loving, law-abiding citizens, we still have the responsibility to be the kind of peace officer we have been called to. We must be aware of this fact. James 2:9 says, “But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.”

Investigational Resources: Isaiah 6, James chapter 3 for taming the tongue and James chapter 2 for precepts on showing favoritism.

Officer Safety Principle: We have an obligation to be who God has called us to be, not what the world expects us to be. We have to choose which way to follow.

from Psalms Through the Eyes of a Cop, Volume 2
©by Charles Gilliland. Used by permission.
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