A bit over a year ago, Engage Your Brain was published on An Old Sinner’s Place. It was my response to someone injecting their understanding of theology into a discussion unnecessarily. Not only was the comment unnecessary, but it was, in my not so humble opinion, inappropriate and offensive.
A short time later, an old friend, a man of the cloth, questioned a post implying police officers were peacemakers as referred to in Matthew 5:9. Both comments were made in response to posts intended to memorialize or remember police officers who fell in the line of duty.
At the time, I simply ignored my old friend’s comment. He is, after all, a bit of a provocateur. Many times his comments are designed to stir the pot or make one think. Yet, in this case, given his openly stated views socially and politically, it seemed clear he was taking exception to images such as the one above. With National Law Enforcement Week, and Peace Officer Memorial Day just past, it seems appropriate to resurrect this issue.
Are police officers peacemakers? My pastor friend may not think so, and the person taking umbrage with the police version of The Final Inspection might agree. In fact, it is likely many people in the United States, even the world, view law enforcement as a necessary evil or simply evil. In some ways, that can be understood.
Anyone paying attention to current events knows that in some parts of the U.S. and many other countries the police are, shall we say, less professional and honest than one would hope. Still, in the States at least, the vast majority of police officers are doing the best they can to protect, serve, and keep the peace. With that said, is keeping order the same as being a peacemaker, as Jesus used the word? Unfortunately, that is not an easy question to answer.
The problem is multi-faceted. First, there is the language issue. The term peacemaker in Greek can be interpreted in several ways, as can the word peacemaker in English. In Hebrew, I cannot find a word that directly translates to peacemaker, though peace and tranquility are easy to find. Then, there is the issue of how did Jesus mean it, and what exactly was he talking about. As with many of His lessons and statements, Jesus did not explain what He meant. With that said, consider the following.
A peacemaker can be defined, in modern terms, as “one who makes peace especially by reconciling parties at variance.” The thought-provoking aspect of this definition may sound a bit heretical, but it is true. Jesus might not fit this definition. In fact, He explicitly denied being a peacemaker, according to Matthew, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (10:34) So, where does that leave us on the question of police officers as peacemakers?
The reality, regardless of what anyone feels, police officers are peace officers or peacemakers. Their job is to fulfill the role of peacemaker, which includes several functions according to the current definition. Merriam-Webster provides the following list of synonyms for peacemaker in modern terms. They include, “broker, buffer, conciliator, go-between, honest broker, interceder, intercessor, intermediary, intermediate, interposer, mediator, middleman.”
Every police officer in every circumstance may not meet all of the criteria set out by our modern understanding of the term peacemaker. Still, every police officer who works for longer than a few days will find him or herself in one of the roles listed above. Even an officer who never does anything beyond enforcing the letter of the law, a complete impossibility, by the way, will be a peacemaker.
Anyone, including the highest authority in any religion, who does not understand police officers are peacemakers needs to do a bit more than play word games. That pastor, priest, preacher, reverend, minister, imam, or chief potentate needs to do some soul searching, and a lot of praying about the matter before opining police officers do not fit the definition, biblically or otherwise, of peacemaker.