In light of recent tragic events in Dallas, Texas, regarding the vicious attack on a Dallas Police Station and other similar attacks on law enforcement, it’s important we remember four important truths.
First, the history of news media has proven that media always reports on the sensational. This has consistently been the case. For instance, many still become very nervous about flying but think nothing about getting into a car and driving. When, in fact, the chances of being in a plane crash are one in every 1.2 million flights and the chances of being in car accident are one in 5,000. Your chances of actually dying in a plane crash are even smaller—one in 11 million. This is because 97.5% of passengers involved in a plane crash actually survive. Why then are so many people terrified of flying? Every time a plane crashes anywhere in the world, the news media covers it. However, the vast majority of fatal car accidents go unreported, even on local news. Car accidents are a dime a dozen. Plane crashes sell. The effect is that people are given the impression that planes crash all the time and that driving is much safer. Similarly, whenever a police officer makes a mistake it makes national news. But the hundreds of thousands of times police officers do the right thing goes virtually unreported. This is not to say we should overlook police officer mistakes in view of all the good they do. Law Enforcement should be held accountable to the highest degree the law permits. However, it is to say we must not judge the bushel because of the few bad apples that make the national news. There are approximately 900,000 police officers nationwide. The vast majority of them, I submit to you, are good cops wanting to make their community a safer place.
Second, the Bible tells us in Romans 13:1, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Police officers are not perfect. They make mistakes. They are human. A few are even corrupt. But God is sovereign and those who are in positions of authority over us have been placed there by God. Again this is not to say we must turn a blind eye to illegal or unethical police behavior. It is to say the Golden Rule of Jesus Christ must apply. “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” Just as we expect to be treated within the limitations of the law by police officers when we have committed a crime, so also police officers should be treated within the limitations of the law when they commit crimes or violate civil liberties. We call this due process. No citizen—police officer or otherwise—should ever be at the mercy of one person who is judge, jury, and executioner.
Third, Romans 13:2 continues, “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” The judgement being spoken of here is both the judgment of the authorities and the judgement of God upon society. When we resist the authorities--whether innocent or guilty—we should not be surprised to find ourselves face down on the hood of a police cruiser. This does not mean we allow ourselves to be abused or taken advantage of by the authorities. The apostle Paul certainly did not. When he was asked by the Roman governor if he wished to go to Jerusalem to be tried, he realized he was being railroaded by the legal system and thus exercised his Roman right and appealed to Caesar (Acts 25). There is a system in place for holding the authorities accountable. Outright resistance is not one of them--nor is it biblical.
Fouth, the judgement that will be incurred by those who “resists what God has appointed” is God’s judgement upon society. In v.5 Paul will say that the authorities are “the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.” Earlier in Romans, Paul explains that as a form of divine judgement God will give over to themselves those who pursue gross and excessive sexual sins (1:24, 26, 28). In other words, he will remove his restraining grace and allow them to destroy themselves in the cesspool of sexual immorality. So also when a nation resists the authorities which God has appointed he will simply allow that nation to tear itself apart. Jesus said “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand” (Mat 12:25 ESV). A society that attacks the authority which God has established to maintain peace within society is a society that has cut of its nose to spite its face. It is a society that will begin to unravel at the seams and will eventually implode.