Blessed are the peacekeepers

Published 12:07 pm Friday, September 30, 2016

by Nathan Decker

President Eisenhower once said, “Peace and Justice are two sides of the same coin.” I have seen this coin handed out by the men and women of Franklin Police Department. As a part of the ministry of High Street UMC, I participate in monthly ride-alongs. I do this because I know being a police officer at this time is traumatic, stressful, and at times, dangerous. I do this to offer support through a caring, listening ear. I do this because most of us live in a bubble and only see the police through the lens of popular shows, the news, and social media. Our police officers are amazing people.

Among those Jesus called ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’ are those who make peace. “True peace,” as Martin Luther King taught us, “is not the absence of tension, but the presence of justice.” Our local police, understaffed and under-equipped while over-worked and over-stressed, provide peace with justice in our city. I have seen it firsthand.

In one instance, we came to a home where a young man was screaming in rage. It was a hot day in August, but he was sweating more sound and fury than heat. I watched as the officers listened patiently.  I observed how they turned down their own emotions. I was impressed at how they self-differentiated so their own struggles at home, worries about kids and finances, were put on the back burner. Did they have their hands close to their available options to use force? Yes. Was it high on their list of options?  No. They talked him down. They talked him out of making a bad choice. They offered a non-anxious response providing a way to a peaceful ending.

Another time, as we were driving through the neighborhood, a kid pointed an orange squirt gun at our vehicle. The officer pulled over. He didn’t yell. He didn’t threaten. He didn’t tell the mom how bad a parent she was. Instead, he took time to kneel down and talk with the child and the adults gathered. He told them it wasn’t safe to point guns, even pretend guns at people. His tone wasn’t a lecture. I watched as the officer seemed to become a father-figure to the children who were present. As we left, the officer made a promise to the kids that he’d be back later on with some ice cream. In a situation that could have started with demands for respect and authority, the officer earned respect and gained authority.

The police officers I know and love are good men and women. They are members of our community.  Like most of our community, they wake up to bills, babies, and burdens. Most are divorced. Most are working more than just police work. Not surprisingly, many are looking for other careers or early retirement.

Because of the nation’s spotlight, an already stressful job has become terrifying. People are afraid. So much fear is in the air that the State Highway Patrol has over 200 openings right now. We need good men and women in law enforcement.

Are there racist cops? Yes. But not all, not the majority, and none that I have seen in Franklin. Chief [Phil] Hardison has done an excellent job of recruiting not just police officers, but keepers of the peace.  These are men and women who are trying to bring healing, wholeness, and shalom to situations from hell. Blessed are the Peacekeepers for they will find us, the community, supporting them in prayers, honor, and heart.

NATHAN DECKER is the pastor of High Street United Methodist Church.