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"Patrolling The Jericho Road" Print E-mail
Written by Ray Fairman   

You can hear anything in a law enforcement "locker room", I know because I have spent most of my life in them. Locker rooms are where "rookies" learn the "Real Story" from the tried and true "Vetranos" of the Street. Or so the veterans want the rookies to believe. 

While it is true that a great deal of good training really does take place informally, especially during the after academy "OJT" phase, rookies need to be discerning in just what they consider "the real gouge" or "Street Gospel." I mean there is a lot of truth to that old adage that says, "You cannot give that which you do not have." That applies to the advice of a number of senior officers I have met who seem to think that a years experience 15 times is the same as 15 years experience. It is not! These "ROD's" (Retired On Duty) never grew beyond their own self-focused lives. They will never view a half full glass, only the half empty variety. I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard one of these "Locker Room Sages" say, "Get over it rookie, there is no place for compassion in police work." Well I can promise you this, if I lost my compassion for others, I would have given up my badge (any one of the 30 or so I have worn in the last 39 years) and withdrawn from the brotherhood and left "The Jericho Road" a long, long time ago.

When I made the decision to patrol the Jericho Road, it was, at first, a reluctant decision on my part. I was a U.S. Marine Corps Staff NCO and I had decided that I was going to follow that career path forever. God, on the other hand, obviously had other plans. However, I was not going to make things easy. You see that just wasn't my way back then. I resisted God until He made the Marine Corps order me to become a cop. Well, they listened and they told me and that my friend, was that.

I became a reserve police officer in 1971 Little Rock Arkansas while I was assigned to the Criminal Investigations Unit of Co. D (-) 4th MP BN and then after 10 years in the Corps, I left the active duty Marine Corps 2 years later in 1973 and joined the USMCR and the Anaheim CA Police Department.

I can't remember ever telling anyone on the "hiring" side of any Oral Board table I sat before that I wanted to become a law enforcement officer (Cop or Deputy Sheriff) so people would respect and thank me for my service and sacrifice on their behalf. I also cannot remember any applicant giving me that answer either, as I sat on the opposite side of the hiring or promotion board table in my later years in law enforcement. Actually I recall receiving many "textbook answers" like "I want to serve my community" and "I want to make my community a better place". "I want to make this agency a better agency to work for"... etc. What happens to Cops who start out with such "noble" intentions?

They find out in no time flat that the "Jericho Road" they find themselves patrolling is not paved with gold, and those who travel that highway with them are not all of such noble spirit. In fact if you review recorded history you can find that the actual strip of trampled earth known as the "Jericho Road" has seen a high cost in human suffering. During biblical times it was known as the most dangerous road in the region. That danger is recorded in Luke 10:25 – 33, when Jesus uses a Jericho Road example in a discourse with a "man of the law" (Why is it always the lawyers?) to educate us on what kind of behavior is expected of a follower of Christ. Another example is found in history when the Europeans found pilgrimages to the holy land after the First Crusade so fraught with danger that the "Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Solomonici" or "Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon" whom we know more commonly as the Knights Templar or the Order of the Temple were founded to protect these pilgrims on their journeys to the Holy Land.

Well friends, the times may have changed and maybe the original dangerous "Jericho Road" still exists (in fact it does still exist and I don't know of any road in the middle east today that is not considered dangerous) but it is no longer merely a short road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Today it spans the globe and is now more aptly described as " a "Highway of Crime", the highway we as law enforcement officers have chosen to patrol. And like our brothers and sisters in the military we have chosen to patrol our portion of it almost alone.

All too often when I hear people say, "That's not my job," I have a hard time keeping silent. You see, I was taught in the Marines and it was later reinforced during my law enforcement career, that the disclaimer we are all so familiar with ("and all other such tasks as is necessary to complete the mission") makes our job all encompassing. In other words there is nothing beneath a leaders duty. So as time went on and my career progressed, I learned that the job of patrolling the Jericho Road would entail a lot of sacrifice and dedication from both my family and myself. I don't think I considered the cost at the outset (and I am glad I didn't), but the high price of sacrifice was made plain many times along the way. I also learned that Christ put me on that road for a purpose and it was not a self-edifying purpose. Learning to balance those sacrifices was not always easy for my family and I, but Christ taught us from every mistake and I believe we became stronger every mile of the way.

Yes, Christ destined me to be a law enforcement officer, I now believe, to allow His love for all His children to flow to some of them through me. Therefore, it is not me that is being edified but Christ who is in me. If it were only up to me, somewhere along that child abusing, wife beating, crack head filled, murdering, gang controlled and just plain evil and seemingly thankless road I would have become so cynical that I too would have begun to look at my profession as merely a means to a paycheck and not a "calling". If you are a Christian cop I am sure that feeling applies to you too. If you are a cop who is not a Christian, then I need to tell you that you are patrolling the Jericho Road with out all the resources available and I never met a cop who had too many resources. You need Jesus Christ "walking point" on your patrol down the Jericho Road.

Thank God that I have never succumbed to cynicism. Don't get me wrong, we all (self included)
experience those low points and trials. The books of the Bible written by both James and Peter tell us what to expect and how to survive those times. We need to add a dash of Paul to their recipe as well because Paul tells us not to forsake the gathering of the fellowship, which I see as a call for
Christian leo's to band together in small accountability groups to study the Word of God and learn how to apply it to the reality of their patrolling of the Jericho Road. These groups can also help us encourage each other and help each other grow stronger as Christians and Christian cops.

I want to take a look for a minute at just whom we serve. Is it ourselves? Is it our brother officers and deputies? Is it our bosses? Let us apply the Jericho Road philosophy to the question, just who is our neighbor? The simple answer to that seemingly complex question is really an easy one, it is: "Anyone in need whose life I can touch". How does that fit in to your perspective?

But Jesus didn’t stop with the simple, easy answer. Indeed, at the end of the story, Jesus broadens
our responsibility even further by changing the original question into another. The question that
Jesus asked as he turns to His inquisitor is not merely the question as to who is our neighbor, but a subtly different one: Who proved to be the neighbor in this story? As if to say, "Don’t focus on
defining who your neighbor is at all. Don’t focus on them whether they are good or bad or not, deserve your love or not. The only focus should be on you: are you being a neighbor? The kind of neighbor Christ wants you to be?

This focusing on ourselves and being responsible for our own actions Jesus does quite consistently whenever he speaks elsewhere about love, too. For example, it’s really what he’s doing when he describes the people we are to love, serve and protect.

Who are we to love in the commandments of Jesus?

You are to love, serve and protect "one another," he says.

Then, as he has just said here, "you are to love, serve and protect your neighbor as yourself."

And if that’s not good enough, you’re to love, serve and protect your enemy as well.

So every excuse you make, Jesus whittles away at and says, "There’s no one outside of that range. They’re either one or another — either a neighbor or an enemy. Either way, you have been called to love, serve and protect them. Do not spend your time focusing on who they are, but on who you are." So, who are you officer?

This little twist or little change of focusing not on the person to be loved, but on ourselves is
something Jesus does consistently. His way challenges us not only to keep the definition of our
neighbor as broad as possible: Who is my neighbor? Any person in need who is close enough for me to touch their lives, but He is also challenging us to change the question and the focus by asking "Am I ... am I a good neighbor? What kind of a neighbor am I? Have I proved to be a
neighbor?" Not answers, that a lot of us want to hear. Are you a neighbor? Am I a neighbor? God Knows.

In Luke 10 Jesus tells us about the characters on purpose. Why? Why does he speak about a priest and a Levite and a Samaritan? What do they have in common or what divides them? Or what do they represent that affects the message that Jesus intends to convey? What divides us from those we serve?

Well, a little bit of knowledge about the ancient world helps! What we find is this — that what unites and what separates many people is a "love of place" or status. A love of place for many Christians is a love of their perceived religious ‘holy place,’ in particular, and for many cops it is a love of position and authority.

The Levite and the priest were officials in the temple in the Jerusalem. Priests and Levites from all over Israel served in the Temple on a rotational basis. So having serving their time in Jerusalem, they were, no doubt, heading home, coming out of Jerusalem. They’d been in Jerusalem, in the temple, in the presence of God while serving there. Washings and sacrifices had purified their sins. The Levite had sung in the Temple choir (that’s what the Levites were, choir members) and the priest had been involved in offering sacrifices on behalf of the people. And hopefully they did it with the same kind of passion for Jerusalem that we read of in the Psalms and in Isaiah. The same way we should patrol the Jericho Road.

But, what about the Samaritan, what defines his actions? Well, the Samaritans and the Jews were divided by this “love of place”.  The Samaritans believed the holy place, the temple where they should worship was the temple that was built on Mt. Gerizim about thirty miles north of Jerusalem at a place called Shechem. They felt that was the true "dwelling place of God." And this passion for one holy place or another (sounds a lot like denominational wars in current Christianity to me) was enough to bitterly divide them. Every one hearing the story from Jesus lips would have immediately known this, and would have known too that it was, in all likelihood, this passion for the holy place of Jerusalem that prevented the priest and the Levite from loving their neighbor who was lying there in obvious need at the side of the road. What keeps the love of God from flowing through you as you patrol the Jericho road?

Let me put it another way. The priest and Levite had just been in Jerusalem. They felt holy. They felt clean. They felt pure. They’d had a mountain-top experience with the living God, and according to the law of God which they and the lawyer who talked to Jesus knew well, if they touched the body of that person, dead or alive, touched the blood, they would become unclean and their precious aura of holiness and wonder would suddenly disappear. That was the law: you don’t touch these things; they make you unclean. And so they felt they were caught in a conundrum. Should they preserve their sense of holiness and righteousness in which their identity was wrapped? Or should they show love toward this person who was lying beaten down before them there on the Jericho Road?

So, one might say, it appears on the surface that the law that they loved in the name of God was the thing that was stopping them from loving their neighbor!!!

This raises this difficult question: What is there within your life that you love so much and that in and of itself may be good, may be right, and may be sanctioned in Scripture, may even come from God, but which seems to stop you from loving your neighbor? What is there in your life that does that?

To provide a contemporary illustration of this we really do not need to look very far, only as far as the Middle East. We only need to look at present day Jerusalem and the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. Importance of the love of Jerusalem in the conflict remains one of the primary factors dividing them. It is one factor stopping them from loving each other and is quite literally working against the very unity and love that God surely wants. Here, we have "the love of a holy place" replacing the Agape love of the one true God.

What might it be, this "love of your life" that is working against your love of your neighbor? What is there in your life that you have fallen in such deep love with, and that your identity is wrapped up in, what stops you from going with compassion and sacrifice to that neighbor in need, and turns us instead into ‘priests and Levites’?

Are you a Christian who happens to be a cop or a cop who happens to be a Christian? Under whose authority do you patrol the Jericho Road?

If you are responding to a calling from God then you are on that road for the right reason and you
have the strength to break through any and all barricades that obstruct your God ordained mission, the mission you had when you first approached the thought of "Patrolling The Jericho Road."

You must always remember, as Jesus Christ makes so very clear in the Parable of the Good Samaritan and in so many other examples from his life, there are no untouchables in the Kingdom of God. We are all created in the Divine Image, and we are all called to love, serve and protect each other.

Jesus made this very clear on the last night of his earthly life, when he told his disciples he was
giving them a new commandment: "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one
another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Until the next time, hold on to your compassion and your testimony as you patrol your own “Jericho Road.”

Chaplain Fairman


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