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Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Use of Deadly Force from a Christian Perspective

The first enunciated value of the Police Department of the City of Saint Petersburg is “Respect:  We respect the rule of law and the rights of individuals.  We respect human life and consider its protection our highest priority.  We respect the dignity and worth of all persons, regardless of the level of respect we receive.” Source

Today I would like to address the place of deadly force in a society with Christian values.  If one becomes a police officer at least implied is that someday he/she might have to use deadly force.  As a Christian under the directive to “love my enemies” how does the officer thoughtfully resolve this?

I will bring in my wife to deal with this.  Let us say that in the home environment my wife notices significant changes in my attitude and behavior.  I become fascinated by hate groups and espouse some of their points of view.  Further, I begin to amass weapons and ammunition.  One day in a hateful rage, I load up my guns and pack them in the car declaring that I’m going to Tyrone Square Mall “to kill all the bastards.” 

Now my wife loves me and is a devoted Christian.  But there is no doubt in my mind what she would do after I drove away.  She would call the police, supplying them with as much information as possible.  She would do this even though she loves me, even because she loves me, even though she could not help but recognize that I might be killed in the police efforts to stop me.  In other words, her love for me gave her no options.

I feel for police officers and soldiers in the military who sometimes must resolve the necessity of killing with lifelong religious training demanding empathy.  Can we “love our enemy” and yet kill them?  I have to answer affirmatively.  As strong discipline is a sometimes paradoxical requisite of love, so also is the ultimate intervention of killing. 

Jesus Christ offered himself up in the ultimate sacrifice to save all mankind.  No other death can achieve this.  Therefore when we are proactive for life at the outer limit, it will look different from that of our Lord.

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