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What Is Your Duty, as You See It, " Print E-mail
Written by Ray Fairman   

"To Serve And Protect" or "Arrest And Convict"

Do you really understand the implications of God’s ordination of your profession? Have you forgotten the words of our “Law Enforcement Code of Ethics” and their intent? We are called to be servants for the good of all mankind. Our service must be a disciplined service if we are truly adhering to God’s calling.

The mark of a professional peace officer is neither a scepter nor a badge. No, our glory is not marked by any title but by toil, sweat and heartfelt service to all. Christ himself provided the example of service on many occasions. Look at
John 13: 14, 15
and again at
Matthew 20: 25-28.

I believe there is no higher calling for a Christian than to be called to serve. Every honest law enforcement officer who has been on the job for more than a year will tell you that the best feeling they have experienced was inextricably linked to their helping someone through a difficult situation. If you think I am nuts then just imagine how rich you would be if you had a dollar for every recruit who told his or her entry level oral board that they wanted to become a law enforcement officer to help people and make their community a better place to live and raise families.

Then what happens to us, as we become veteran officers? Why does that “Protect and Serve” mentality seem to become transformed into an “Arrest and Convict” mentality?

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Sometimes I think we just get caught up in the “way of the world”. Our struggle to find our sought after place in the world’s “pecking order” takes over and we seek to banish the ordinary, mundane and trivial service that is, or should be, the cornerstone of our journey to become more Christ like, in favor of the more high profile self-righteous service that brings us the accolades of the world along with its promotions and other rewards. Oh how I wish more of us, myself included, thoroughly understood the destructive potential of the power and authority we too often seek to attain. We need to realize that the worldly flattery we seem to relish is like perfume. You do understand don’t you that perfume is to be sniffed and not swallowed?

Don’t get me wrong; I am definitely an advocate of authority and strong leadership. Even Jesus taught about levels of authority. The authority of which Jesus taught though was not an authority of power, manipulation and control. On the contrary, he taught about an authority based on needs, service and function, not on status. He made a point of differentiating between the authority of the gentile rulers who lorded it over their subjects and the type of leaders He expected His followers to become.

Let’s look at two vastly different approaches to service and see how they apply to our own lives. First we will need to differentiate between these two forms of service so we will call one “selfless” and the other “self-righteous”.

I find that self-righteous service takes some amount of human effort to accomplish it because it has so much calculating, conniving and assessing of the rewards involved. Selfless service, however, is motivated only by an awareness of a need and a desire to address that need.

Self-righteous service is always undertaken for personal gain or goal satisfaction. On the other hand selfless service is offered solely out of the divine urging of the Holy Spirit and the emerging Christ like character He is trying to mold within each of us. Self-righteous service wants to be viewed as impressive while selfless service is quite happy to be found working anonymously behind the scene.

A self-righteous servant needs to be needed and seeks the applause and recognition of others to feel fulfilled. A selfless servant shuns the limelight and indiscriminately seeks and accepts all opportunities to serve no matter how small and seemingly insignificant these opportunities may appear. We should take a moment right here and think about just how easy it is for the applause of the world to drown out the “still small voice” of the Holy Spirit.

The self-righteous servant can hardly wait to see just how and if the person served will reciprocate. They are often disappointed when the results fall below their expectations. The selfless servant will accept recognition but does not seek it nor does he expect anything in return. Therefore, though he may be disappointed, he is seldom discouraged by the exhibited response. Christ exemplified this character on so many occasions. For example recall the 10 lepers who were healed? How much appreciation was shown in that situation?

A self-righteous servant also screens those to whom their service is offered. While they may well serve those of great stature and appear to do so somewhat willingly, it is often only because of the gainful advantage it provides. Their service to the lowly and oppressed frequently is simply a way to help them broadcast their “humility”. Selfless service is totally uncalculating regarding whom it serves. It serves both friend and adversary alike. Unlike a self-righteous servant, the selfless servant does not serve based on their mood or disposition or potential for enhancement. They let their service manage their feelings and not their feelings determine their service.

Self-righteous service can be characterized as periodic and temporary while selfless service becomes a way of life. While the former may exhibit a pattern, the latter routinely forms the pattern of a lifestyle.

Self-righteous service, when closely inspected is usually found to be quite destructive. It generally fails to foster teamwork because it focuses on the glorification of an individual and not on becoming Christlike or on the enhancement of His kingdom. It always seeks to place others in its debt and is one of the most subtle and detrimental forms of manipulation known to man. Selfless service on the other hand goes quietly along unpretentiously caring for the needs of others. It draws, heals, binds and edifies those in need. Selfless service is indeed the type of service we as peace officers need to be encouraging in our fellow officers.

I hope it is obvious by now that selfless service operates best in an environment of humility. While humility is a desirable virtue, it is a virtue that can never be achieved by pursuing it. The more obvious effort you put into becoming humble, the more obvious your lack of that virtue becomes.

There are ways though to achieve this classical Spiritual Discipline. You should have recognized by now that selfless service could be one of the most productive avenues leading toward a life of true humility. When we accept an assignment that places the good of others ahead of any of our own needs and do so with the intention of accomplishing this task from a position of anonymity, a change for the better begins deep within our spirit.

Nothing disciplines and transforms the inordinate desires of the flesh like serving others from a position of obscurity. The flesh often views service as a burden or reluctantly as an obligation and routinely performs these tasks without enthusiasm. When it views selfless service it thrashes and bellyaches and shrieks against its hidden performance requirement. . The flesh strains and longs for honor, recognition and accolades. It despises the shadows and looks for subtle and “religiously” acceptable ways to avoid undertaking the mission or calling copious amounts of attention to its accomplishment.

When we successfully battle and defeat the flesh we, as Paul said, “crucify the flesh”. So every time we defeat the lusts of the flesh we also diminish our pride and arrogance. We sometimes fail to understand the significance of this because we don’t really understand the meaning of 1 John 2:16. When John speaks of the “Lust of the flesh” he is not limiting the phrase as many Christians do to sexual sins. John is including such fleshly desires as pompous self-centeredness, infatuation with fame, the desire for glory and recognition, the pleasures of the world, the benefits of financial security and natural human capabilities. All of these things seem to reflect a lack of any dependence on God and are therefore the deadly enemies of humility.

The often-painful lesson the flesh must learn is that it has no rights of its own. If humility is to enter our life it must sneak in without our concentrating on acquiring it. This will require the acceptance of our fellow men as they are encountered. This means strengthening their weaknesses, accepting their imperfections, encouraging their virtues, delighting in their excellencies, rejoicing in their prosperity, meeting their needs, forgiving their unkindness, overlooking their malicious actions and seeking to bring them closer to God.

This doesn’t sound easy does it? Maybe that is why selfless service is actually a living prayer of thanksgiving and praise. I don’t know about you but I would much rather see a sermon or a prayer in action than hear one broadcast by a person who was merely parroting an unespoused philosophy they were not exemplifying in their own life. Just imagine the impact of “practicing what you preach”. That is an attribute of Christ.

The hardest thing to overcome for the flesh in dealing with selfless service, comes about with the integration of another Spiritual Discipline, that of submission. If the flesh is to achieve humility it must realize the difference between the idea of service and being a servant. The concept of service still allows for the flesh to be in charge. If your flesh can be in charge then someone else can also be in charge and this initiates a feeling of conflict because the flesh does not like to be controlled. The concept of being a servant removes the expectation of any fleshly rights and provides a great freedom in the willingness of our service. Choosing to become a servant eliminates the desire and need to be in charge thus removing the obstacle of conflict. Voluntary servitude brings great joy and provides the environment for the nurturing of humble and selfless service.

Since I pointed out at the beginning of this article that ours is a profession of service, may I ask you with what attitude you serve daily? Do you write a list of things to do? Do you write that list before or after you accomplish them? Like all lists I make I’ll bet you don’t get to finish it before the day is gone. Well not finishing that list may not matter as much as we think it does because the type of service we place on lists like that tends to lean more toward the self-righteous service anyway. Selfless service is not focused on the kind of things we have to place on lists, it is more aptly described as a lifestyle. It can be found in the small things we do for others preferably without thinking about them. Little things don’t draw much attention while the kinds of things we place on lists are often more high profile in nature. Who gets the credit for completing those tasks? All too often it is the person accomplishing them, a person more properly described as a performer than a servant. Remember the true servant usually remains faceless to the world.

To use an example from my own background, there is more to the game of baseball than a rulebook. To know what the rules are and obey each of then unwaveringly will not make you a major leaguer. A person must make the game of baseball apart of their life and make executing the fundamentals of the game “second nature”. So it is with service. If we are required to think about performing it them we are not experiencing the fulfillment of the discipline; we are only practicing the mechanics of service.

Having spent a lifetime in public service I have had plenty of experience in both performing selfless service and in battling the fleshly desire to “perform” services for others. I have also had others serve me quietly and even unknowingly. I have even had to be reminded that others desired to serve me while I seemed to think that as a peace officer I have a corner on the market of service in my little portion of the world. You can’t spend 35 years being a cop and not have someone do something nice for you. It just ain’t going to happen. I must admit though that it wasn’t the most common response from people and what made it so wonderful was not expecting or wanting anything from these unidentified benefactors. I found allowing others to serve me made me see and appreciate the things I was doing for others in a different light. It was not I doing things to help out God, but God doing things through many servants in his employ to make His kingdom the kind of place it is supposed to be. God counts on my service being there but He doesn’t depend solely on me to accomplish His tasks.

Opportunities for great service are far less frequent than the opportunities for daily service. You might also realize if you think about it a minute, that while the occasions to provide a great service may require a greater sacrifice momentarily, the multitude of small services needed will require a life of constant sacrifice. Are you up to that?
If you think about it you will realize that the small things are the really important and long lasting services that we need to concentrate on because they are the glue that binds us together as a society. Small things like charity, the control of our tongues, common courtesy, and hospitality are so very obvious when they are missing but all too often overlooked when they are present.

As law enforcement officers we often feel we have to have all the answers and need to use them right away. We sometimes feel that the service of listening isn’t important because we have heard it all before and we know what the other person is going to say before they utter a sound. Sometimes just listening to someone, suspect, victim or fellow officer is all they need.

Sharing the burdens of others is a biblical part of service we frequently neglect. If all the prayers promised for all the burdens we are aware of were actually prayed, then God might really have to use His great and mighty power to hear and respond to them all. I have no doubt that He could handle it, but wouldn’t it be great to see it happen?

The last thing I want you to think about while we are talking about service is the “Great Commission”. God told us to go into the world and preach and teach, didn’t He? Well most of us have gone into the world all right. What we seem to fall short on though is the rest of the command. What kind of friend, servant or Christian knows about the gift of salvation and never shares it with another lost person because of the fear of rejection. When we fail to proclaim the gospel we set ourselves and others up for future sorrow. We have in fact failed to serve both God and our fellow man. Someone might miss the last train to heaven; so to speak, because we failed to tell them it was available. I don’t want that spoken in my eulogy.

As this draws to a close can you and are you willing to say this little prayer each morning? “Lord, if it be Your will, please allow someone to enter my life this day whom I can serve in some way”.

Capt. Ray R. Fairman
Winterville (GA) Police Department

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