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Suppose you were asked to list five characteristics that would give us a good idea of who you are and what you’re about. What would you say? You’d probably want to take time to think about your answer and you’d be very selective about the traits that you chose, wanting them to be as accurate as possible.
Now suppose God the Father was to describe Himself this way. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see which characteristics He chose? Well, one time God gave a summary like this to Moses. No one asked God to summarize Himself—He did it voluntarily, and He said:
“I am Yahweh. Yahweh is a God who shows mercy, who is kind, who doesn’t become angry quickly, who has great love and faithfulness and is kind to thousands of people. Yahweh forgives people for evil, for sin, and for turning against Him, but He does not forget to punish guilty people. (Ex. 34:6-7)
So what does this mean for you? Well, if you want to know God better, He’s just provided you with a list of what He considers to be some of His most defining characteristics. Merciful, kind, slow to anger, loving, faithful, forgiving, yet not without justice. Until you gain a deeper understanding of these things, you’re not going to be very close to God. So where can you go to further your education on these traits? God has already taken care of that little problem for you. What do you do for a living? You’re a police officer. How very convenient.
You are not just one grain of sand on a seashore to God. You are a unique soul who He created with a very specific purpose in mind. Your life on earth is a series of carefully coordinated events which God is using to draw you closer to Him. This career in law enforcement is a key part of His program. There are so many fabulous insights you can learn about God through your work as a police officer, and many of them come to you in the form of really irritating people who you meet in the field.
Let’s consider God’s daily experience of the human race. This world is full of defiant little souls who intentionally set out to break His rules. When He calls them out on their rebellion, they give Him all kinds of snarky attitude. Sound familiar? As a cop, you deal with this all the time. People run lights, ignore right-of-ways, steal, and assault others, but when you show up at the scene and call them out on what they did, they give you buckets of attitude.
So often when the Holy Spirit convicts people of their sin, the first response He gets is, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” Sound familiar? How many times have you had people shamelessly deny some behavior that they did right in front of you? Welcome to God’s world: the bond of identity is growing.
Even though God could inflict horrible suffering on someone with a single word, so often He stands by with patient restraint while they fling insults and mockery at Him. Sound familiar? How often have you been tempted to reach for your gun when some foul mouthed brat is flinging obscenities in your face and whipping out those derogatory nicknames for police officers that make your blood boil? One good whack with your nightstick would sure shut him up, but no, you are called to walk a higher road than that. When you do, you are gaining a deeper understanding of how God treats us.
It’s easy to say, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” But when you’re a cop, you see the ugliness of sin close up. You know firsthand just how petty, vicious, selfish, and evil people can be. You get your face rubbed in all the graphic ways that people abuse and degrade each other behind closed doors. You see the arrogance of the unrepentant lawbreaker whose daddy gets him off without penalty because he’s a friend of the chief. You see justice thwarted by crooked judges who want to nitpick about the way you did or didn’t read someone their rights instead of addressing the actual crime that was committed. You see the same faces getting arrested over and over again as people keep making self-destructive choices. You see communities get filled with corruption. You see gangs and drug lords building kingdoms for themselves which no one seems able to topple. These are the sinners that Christ died for. These train wrecks of pain and anger are the souls who God chooses to have compassion on. It’s these terrible crimes that leave permanent scars and shatter families that God chooses to forgive. As a police officer, you are in the perfect position to gain a much deeper understanding of just how awesome God’s mercy, kindness, compassion, and love are. No one is excluded. No one is passed over. When you keep arresting the same individuals over and over and seeing no change in their attitudes, it’s easy for you to label them as hopeless in your mind, but God is still reaching out to them. God is slow to anger. While one rude citizen’s snarky comment can wreck your day, God hears blasphemous mockery thundering in His ears 24/7, yet He chooses to be patient.
It’s your bad days in the field that help you gain a deeper appreciation of how good God really is. It’s when you just want to beat someone’s head in that you have the chance to gain a deeper appreciation for the undeserved love that God has extended to you. Who among us can claim to be innocent of sin? We’ve all treated God abominably in more ways than we want to admit. Yet He still loves us—really loves us, He doesn’t just endure us with that strained politeness that you find yourself sometimes unable to manage. What if God got as crispy with us as you get with people on the days when you feel fried? What if God was as susceptible to burnout as we humans are? Where would that leave us? In Hell, of course. Yet it’s because God is so incredibly good that we are not in Hell. Instead, we Christians are forgiven and on our way to an eternal paradise. All of this because God is a God who prides Himself on being merciful, kind, slow to anger, loving, faithful, and forgiving.
Trust in the goodness of God’s Character is the foundation on which your entire faith is built. How confident you are in God, how much soul peace you experience in life, how well you cope with fear—all of these things depend on how well you understand the goodness of God. It is essential that you become well educated on the subject of God’s goodness, and because He loves you and wants you to thrive in your relationship with Him, God has led you into the perfect career for gaining a very deep understanding of His Character. Being a police officer puts you in a great position to thrive in the faith, all that’s needed is for you to have an open heart towards the Holy Spirit. “God, help me grow closer to You through my job.” It’s a simple prayer, and yet it’s one that can change your whole life. As a police officer, you are surrounded with opportunities for growth. Your job is a tough one—filled with challenges and stresses. There’s a major emphasis on the negative in your field, yet God can use that negative focus to increase your understanding of His goodness.
When He spoke to Moses, Yahweh listed off a bunch of positive traits, but then He said that He was not without boundaries. God still punishes people. He knows there are times when consequences need to be dished out, and so do you. Sometimes you feel prompted to be gracious, other times you write out that ticket knowing that it was well deserved. God is not a doormat. He has fierce wrath. He is the Creator and Dispenser of all the torments of Hell. When He first organized Israel into a nation, Yahweh came up with a large body of laws and a variety of brutal punishments for those who violated those laws. He was a big fan of the death penalty. He demanded that law enforcers be treated with respect. Yours is a job that God has always supported, as long as those doing the job were listening to Him. It’s not hard to succeed with God in this field: all He wants from you is submission to His Authority and an invitation for Him to make you all that He wants you to be. “Lord, have Your total way with me as a law enforcement officer and make me pleasing in Your sight.” If you can sincerely pray a prayer like this, God will take care of the rest.
The key to thriving as a cop is keeping your focus on eternal priorities. It’s not your job to maintain justice in this world. For you, this job is just a tool that God has chosen to bring you closer to Him. Life is about you and God. Growing closer to Him and pleasing Him—nothing else matters. Partners, supervisors, and awards come and go, but God is the One who will be with you forever. Your relationship with Him is the only one that you can count on to last, so that is the one you want to be investing in. When you head out into the field each day, it’s another opportunity to grow closer to God. When you’re tired, when you’re scared, and when you’re stressed, He is right there with you, whispering reassuring truths to your soul that will help you stay focused on Him. With practice, you can become very good at hearing His Voice and being aware of His Presence with you at all times. The job is just a means to a glorious end. It’s all about you and God growing closer. Go into it with a teachable heart, and you will be amazed at how far the Holy Spirit will take you. Who knew being a cop was the way to gain a closer walk with God? For you, it is. Embrace the journey.