Monday, November 28, 2011

Good Cop, Bad Cop

After retiring in 2008 after 29 years of service as a police officer in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin suburban department, one of the worst things to happen to anyone in the profession was to discover a corrupt cop that was wearing the badge. It is essential that police officers be trusted to uphold the law with the utmost loyalty and dedication to the citizens and community that they serve. One bad apple can spoil the whole batch if the police lose the trust of the citizens. After all, every person a police officer comes into contact with is subject to the authority that is entrusted to them. Police officers can take away the freedom of a citizen engaged in or suspected of criminal activity. Police officers are charged to protect and serve. A police officer will place his or her own safety in jeopardy to protect the weak and sometimes, even those guilty of criminal acts. Being a cop is much more than a job. It takes dedication and sacrifice, working on weekends, holidays, missing family functions and working hours when any normal person would be asleep. The saying goes that police officers are not paid for what they do, they are paid for what they may have to do. And some of those calls for police are not what anyone would want to experience or endure.

There are other professions that, by the very nature of their reputation, invoke the highest of confidence and trust. When one is called to serve the Lord as a member of the clergy, they are necessarily believed to be guided by the Holy Spirit in, and through their service. To fail to properly serve the Lord faithfully by preaching “something new” that undermines the Truth, is not even on the radar screen for those that love the Lord. In Presiding ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson’s address to the ELCA Church Council on November 11th this year, he said that ELCA members are "called to be part of God's reconciling and restoring community" in the world. 1Timothy 2:1, 3-6, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 5 For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. 6 He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.” When we are called by the leader of the largest Lutheran Church in North America to “be a part of God’s reconciling and restoring community, one has to determine what our role is to be as reconciler. As Paul wrote, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ was the only one who could reconcile God and humanity. Perhaps by proclaiming the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as He taught the Apostles, by praying for and interceding on their behalf may just be the way to save them and lead them to understand the Truth. Additionally, concentrating on what our Lord called us to do in the Great Commission would go a long way to restoring community in the world.

At this time in the life of the ELCA, mission to bring the word to the world has fallen prey to loss of membership and benevolence. Social statements and advocacy for the things of this world have a higher priority for this misguided denomination and funds normally directed to mission have been cut. The doctrine of “Accompaniment” is being lifted up as the ELCA’s way of watering the seeds of mission they have already planted, rather than starting new mission work. Hanson tried to further illustrate the ways the ELCA is deeply rooted in God’s mission. He highlighted the process by which the ELCA adopts social documents, which "informs our public witness, but not bind our conscience, to help us live as responsible people of faith in a complex world." It is interesting how cavalierly that Hanson uses the term “bind our conscience” as a tactic to give the impression of marginalizing their true objective, secular ambitions, rather than our proclaiming the Gospel to the world. Social statements only act as barriers, set in front of faithful ELCA members that blind them to the call of our Lord and Savior to save the lost. How could God’s church place a higher calling on advocating for things such as the “DREAM” act while they choose to abandon their responsibility to reach and save the lost?

Hanson also called to “affirm the vocation of political service as being a calling from God and therefore need to hold public servants accountable.” It is true that God places those in positions of authority and we do need to respect those in office. We are similarly called to hold those in office accountable to the public trust. Police officers that fail to conduct their duties in a lawful manner will be held accountable by the authorities within their respective departments or if the conduct merits it, the criminal justice system. Politicians that fail the public trust will be held accountable at the ballot box or, if necessary will also face potential criminal actions. For those in the clergy that deliberately lead their flock astray, Jesus said in Mark 9:42, “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.” Bishop Hanson continually advocates for the things of the world and emphasizes their importance in trying to "fix" our broken world. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ gets no more than lip service in the mission of the ELCA. For certain, there are ELCA churches that do not buy what Hanson is selling and remain true to the Lord, but we all are known by the company we keep. Those that decide to remain a light within the darkness of the ELCA, are simply on a fool’s errand that will only lead them to the understanding that the leadership of the ELCA has truly abandoned our God. Jeremiah 5:30-31, “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: 31The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?”

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