Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gunfight

As cops, we are familiar with the phrase, “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.”

People who attend church are familiar with the belief, “The Bible is the Word of God.”

Integrate Two Truths

In this article, I would like to integrate the idea, “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight,” along with the proclamation, “The Bible is the Word of God.”

I hope to stimulate your thought process, and convince people that God’s Word is just as vital to Christ followers (Christians) as a handgun is to a police officer.

Story of Being Unarmed

I was involved in undercover operations for about 10 years during my career. During one case we had negotiated with a drug trafficker to deliver about 10 lbs. of marijuana (back when it was a serious felony).

Once he arrived we planned to have a patrol unit stop the bad guy and seize the drugs. But when the patrol car “lit him up,” he decided to rabbit and the chase was on.

The pursuit lasted a few miles before the crook was cornered in a neighborhood and decided to bail from his car. I trailed the patrol officer in the pursuit, so I was on hand when the guy split. As a result, I gave chase of the primary suspect, who was carrying a backpack full of pot, while the patrol officer stayed with two additional suspects in the car.

I followed the drug dealer over several fences but lost him when a tree branch slapped my face and slit my cheek just below the eye.

lessons learned

(Photo courtesy Fountain Valley Police Officers Association)

We quickly had a police helicopter overhead, so we were confident the suspect hunkered down in a backyard in the neighborhood.

Our K9 handler responded. After a quick briefing, I followed him as we conducted a yard-to-yard search. After looking for this guy for about an hour, the K9 was tired and we let our guard down.

On this particular warm Southern California night, I was wearing shorts and a tank top. Also, bear in mind that my cheek had been sliced open, so I had blood smears on my face and hands. While searching for the crook, I made sure to remain behind the handler, so the dog would not mistake me for the drug dealer.

Yet while searching the next to last backyard, I walked several paces in front of the handler as we made our way out. That was all it took.

Our K9 was tired of searching, and he decided I was the closest thing to a bad guy, so he launched and hooked onto the right side of my butt cheek, taking me to the ground.

National law enforcement

The handler gave the command to come off the bite, “AUS! AUS” he shouted from 20 feet away. But Renzo, (the K9) wasn’t going to release. Finally, Eric (the handler) approached Renzo from behind and put him into a rear naked chokehold to get him to release the bite.

Well, it worked. Renzo released his bite on me and now attached his canine teeth to Eric’s arm. As a result, Eric went berserk to get Renzo off the bite, but not before he had his arm sliced open, which exposed tendons and muscle.

Consequently, Eric had to be transported to the hospital for emergency medical care to repair the damage.

So imagine the violence that can be heard as Renzo has just attacked two cops in one backyard.

If the neighbors weren’t awake from the helicopter in orbit overhead, they were certainly alert from the commotion due to the attack by our own K9.


We had one final backyard to search, and although I had a sliced face from the tree branch, and fresh K9 puncture wounds in my butt cheek, I had enough adrenaline flowing in me to complete the search of the final yard.

As I entered the last backyard with a different officer, I suddenly realized my handgun was missing. I dropped it in the previous yard when Renzo took me to the ground. And in all the commotion of getting bit, and loading Eric in the ambulance and off to the hospital, I didn’t realize my weapon was missing.

But now I had committed to finish the search and I’m in the final backyard when I realized I didn’t have a weapon.

It was a sinking feeling!

I called out to the officer with me, “Dave, do you have a backup gun?”

“Yeah,” he replied. “Why?”

“I need one while we finish the search,” I said with embarrassment. “I think mine is buried in the grass next door.”

So Dave provided me with his backup weapon and we finished scanning the yard.

The last item to clear was a storage shed. It backed up to a 6-foot block wall, which divided the properties. Directly on the other side of the fence is where I had my encounter with Renzo.

As we opened the shed doors, I thought for sure we’d find our fleeing suspect.

But he wasn’t there.

In defeat I began to exit the yard in order to retrieve my handgun when I heard Dave yell, “Get down.”

I spun around and saw him shining a light and aiming his firearm about 30 feet up in a tree. As I looked up, I saw our boy. The gig was up. We found our bad guy.

He descended the tree and jumped to the ground. As I placed him in handcuffs, I asked if he had been “up there” the entire time.

“No way,” he said. “I was in the shed until I heard your dog attack you guys. I figured if he did that to you he’d eat me alive, so I climbed the tree.”

So as you can imagine, being unarmed when confronting law violators can be an eerie feeling for a police officer.

Be Armed with the Word of God

The same can be said for a Christian when it comes to confronting evil. We need to be armed with the Word of God.

stand watch

However, before we continue I want to highlight a cultural distinction.

Modern day police officers are equipped with a sidearm. It is our chosen means of life preserving defense.

They didn’t have firearms in the time of Christ, so the weapon of the day was a sword. The Centurions during that period of history carried what was called a short sword, or gladius. They could also carry a dagger, known as a pugio.

The apostle Paul wrote an instructive letter to the church in Ephesus at a time when Centurions carried swords as their primary weapon. Many of you are familiar with the passage of Scripture found in Ephesians 6:10-18 when he talks about putting on the full armor of God. This is what he wrote:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Did you catch the last part? “Take the helmet of salvation and the SWORD of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Paul was nobody’s fool. As a Pharisee, he had been fully engaged in the battle AGAINST Christianity before he surrendered his life to Christ. Afterward, he extolled the “PEACE of the gospel” while exhorting followers of Jesus to arm themselves for spiritual warfare. And in doing so, he equates the Word of God to the weapon of the day, a sword.

So that is why I believe a police officer going into service without a firearm is as foolish as a Christ follower trying to do battle in our culture without the Word of God.


On August 26, 2002 I responded to the scene of a barricaded suspect. A 49-year-old man was extorting money from his elderly parents. His father was immobilized in a hospital bed within the home. We managed to get Mom to safety, but were now tasked with arresting her adult son.

We didn’t expect anything more than mild resistance from him. He had a few non-violent misdemeanor arrests in the past, but that was it.

However, at the time, we were unaware that he had been in and out of mental institutions during the previous 20 years.

So I led a four-person entry team to extract the man and place him under arrest. As we began to clear the house, we came upon a room that was locked. A perimeter officer was able to see through a window and told us he saw the suspect stacking furniture against the door.

After several attempts to convince him to surrender, there was no response.

Finally, I tried twice to kick the door open, and it barely moved. So on the third occasion, I backed up a few steps and rammed it with my shoulder. As I hit the door it came unhinged and fell like a domino into the room, crashing on top of a desk that had barricaded the door. I went falling into the room on top of the door, just like I was in line with the dominos. In doing so, I saw a double-headed, lumberjack style axe descending from the ceiling toward my head.

Although my vision went dark, I felt a thud as the axe struck the left side of my body. The axe handle pinned the forearm of my shooting hand against my ribcage as the head of the axe impacted my chest.

For less than two seconds, I had no visual understanding of what occurred, while the officer behind had the perspective that I had been split in half. He was armed with less lethal beanbags, and launched all four at the suspect. One of the beanbags struck the axe-swinging-man in the nose, and pushed him back about five feet.

In the meantime, I rolled to the floor and my vision returned just in time to see the axe descending upon me a second time.

I fired a single round to his forehead, and his life ended.

Police Warfare 

That is the battle of a cop on the street. It’s police warfare. I was armed with a handgun and God chose me for victory on that given day.

But what if I had been armed with a “a squirt gun” or a “feather duster?” Would I have achieved the same result?

Not on your life!

That is why we uniformly agree, “Don’t bring a knife (or an axe) to a gunfight.”

healthy organization

(Photo courtesy Thomas Marchese)

Spiritual Warfare 

According to the Bible, spiritual warfare goes all the way back to God’s creation of humanity in the Garden of Eden, and it will continue until God casts Satan into the abyss.

Paul was aware of this. That is why he wrote:

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.  

Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God

So if the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, what should that mean to people that claim to be followers of Christ?

In a spiritual sense it means we shouldn’t bring a knife to a gunfight. Moreover, in realistic terms Paul is telling us to use God’s Word as a practical instrument pursuing peace of the gospel.

Isn’t that what we do as cops? We pursue peace, but on occasion need to engage in combat! Right?

But how is God’s Word used? Is it to pursue peace of the gospel or like a weapon of mass destruction?

Negative Culture of Firearms – Armed Officer Illustration

Let me illustrate my point this way:

The culture in America today is turning anti-firearms. After every mass murder, people are quick to condemn the weapon while using some twisted, justified logic explaining why the homicidal maniac is “sick” and not “evil.”

But what about the firearm in the hands of a police officer running toward danger? It is not feared. Right?

What about the firearm in the hands of more than 2 million people (according to a CDC study) who defend their loved ones from danger annually?

When the weapon is in the hands of a person who desires to use it righteously, it is not feared by anyone except the adversary.

Followers of Christ and the Christian community need to use the Bible the same way—as a weapon against evil, and a tool for peace to others.

Squirt Guns and Feather Dusters

What are some of the squirt guns and feather dusters that we use in lieu of God’s Word?

Any advice that conflicts with God’s Word is detrimental to the long-term wellbeing of the individual.

Culturally Relevant

Just because culture changes doesn’t mean God’s Word is irrelevant. The Bible is God’s roadmap. It explains how he reaches us and why we need to respond to his love. Moreover, it explains how to live while we’re walking the earth, and what to expect when our human life comes to a close.

God’s Word provides guidance and counsel in:

  • Marriage
  • Parenting
  • Relationships

God’s Word provides principles in:

  • Leadership
  • Followership
  • Fellowship

Furthermore, God’s Word provides a historical outline from the creation of time to eternity.

God’s Word has been proven historically accurate, prophetically predictive, and never off the mark.

While science books are required to be edited annually, God’s Word becomes more complete as we increase our scientific knowledge.

The apostle Paul instructed his protégé Timothy:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Do you want to be men and women of God? Then arm yourself with God’s Word.

Sold Out/Sitting on the Fence/Doubters

In every crowd, people can generally be placed into one of three categories when it comes to faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

First is the person who is sold out. This individual believes the Bible to be the verified Word of God, and that faith in Christ alone is the only way to heaven. As a result of their faith, the sold out person does everything to live according to God’s instructions.

Easter evidence

Second is the person sitting on the fence. This individual generally believes, but has done nothing with his faith. It might be considered deferred until it’s needed, or actually dormant.

Finally, we have the doubters. A doubter can be anyone who is simply seeking truth, to others who claim to be atheist or agnostic.

Sold Out

If you are in the “sold out” category, you likely agree with my words.

Sitting on the Fence

To the person sitting on the fence, can I simply urge you to get in the game? I believe “fence-sitting” is really evidence that a person lacks sincere belief at all. The Bible actually calls this individual “lukewarm,” and it’s the worst of all categories.


To the seeker/doubter, I simply say, congratulations, you are in good company, and I’m glad you’re still reading. Jesus’ very brother James was a doubter.

Furthermore, you’ve certainly heard of “Doubting Thomas?” Well, he was a real person in history. Thomas was actually one of Christ’s disciples.

Behavior Analysis

Behavior analysis was one of the most fascinating courses I took during my career. The weeklong educational session brought to life the gut instinct most cops develop about truthfulness and deception learned when routinely questioning career criminals.


But after experiencing the seminar, I was able to articulate why I believed someone was truthful or deceptive.

Just like human physiology doesn’t lie—i.e. pupils constrict when opiates are in the blood system—behavior analysis tells a story the lips try to conceal.

Analyzing behavior of the apostles of Christ has helped further anchor my faith.

Before explaining why, I need to stipulate my belief that the gospels written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were verified, timely, and accurate. If you’d like to take an evidentiary look at the gospels, I recommend the book, “Cold Case Christianity,” by former homicide detective, J. Warner Wallace.

But let’s quickly look at James, the brother of Jesus, and analyze his behavior.

James—not to be confused with two disciples by the same name—along with other family members, did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. The Bible says, “For not even his brothers believed in Him” (John 7:5). Actually it was worse than disbelief. They thought he was nuts. Peter communicated through Mark who wrote, “They (his family) went out to seize Him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind,’” when a crowd gathered around Jesus near their home (Mark 3:21).

When you believe with absolute certainty something to be incorrect, what does it take to change your mind? For me, it is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the same standard applied in criminal court.

I believe this was true for James, and Paul knew that when he wrote about the resurrected Christ in a letter to the Corinthians, “Then He (Jesus) appeared to James, then to all the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:7).

Jesus had purpose in all He did. Just like He told a doubtful Thomas who wanted to see evidence, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Moreover, Jesus chose to appear to His skeptical brother, James, before appearing to the rest of the apostles.

To say James was convinced is an understatement. First, he doubted his brother. Next, he thought Jesus had lost his mental faculties. Did this lead to his absence during the crucifixion when John was left to console Mary? Perhaps! But once James witnessed the resurrected Jesus, you might say he had a paradigm shift. He knew with absolute certainty that Jesus was the Messiah. Furthermore, he not only went on to become one of the early church leaders, but authored the book of James found in the Bible.

He begins his testament this way, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, …”

Those are not the words of skeptic or doubter, let alone someone who continued to think Jesus needed to be admitted for psychiatric evaluation.

Ironically, one of the first messages written by him concern those who doubt. It is found in the first chapter of James, and says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:5-6).

What was James’ reward for casting doubt aside? … He was stoned to death. Is that behavior consistent with someone perpetuating fraud, deceit, or some massive conspiratorial lie? … Not in my book!

James knew his death would simply begin eternal life. This is behavior that should be analyzed.

If your life is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind, perhaps you need to cast aside doubt and come to the same conclusion as James?


Now I want to speak to atheists and agnostics for a moment. If that is you, may I say lovingly and gracefully that I’m sincerely glad you’re reading. I don’t want to argue with you, but the God of the Bible has been reaching out.

Scripture says:

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

“He has put eternity into man’s heart, …” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world” 
(Psalm 19:1-4).

If you fall into the atheist or agnostic camp, I’d simply offer Pascal’s Wager:

Blaise Pascal was a seventeenth century (1623-1662) French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist. When it comes to issues of faith, he said that humans bet with their lives that God either exists or does not. Pascal argued that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in him. Because if God does not actually exist, such a person will have only finite loss—some pleasure, luxury, etc. Yet, if God exists, and they fail to believe in him, eternal separation is the cost.

So essentially what Pascal was saying is this, “If I’m wrong and the atheist is right, I’ve got nothing to lose. But if I’m right and the atheist is wrong, he’s condemned himself.”

Bob Gallaugher

I had this very conversation with a dear friend and partner in law enforcement. Bob Gallaugher was one of my closest friends, yet an avowed atheist. We had several conversations regarding issues of faith, but every time he said he couldn’t believe.

Bob was one of the most ethical people I knew. One day while driving to a parole hearing together, I asked what was the foundation for his ethical behavior. He admitted that it was probably the imprinting from an uncle, who was a priest. While he acknowledged the irony in this statement, it did not change his opinion.

I mentioned Pascal’s wager. “Bob, if I’m wrong and you’re right, I’ve got nothing to lose,” I said. “But if things are reversed, you have no defense.”

A few months later Bob became ill. Our department received a 9-1-1 call from his home. Responding officers and friends discovered Bob had asphyxiated on his vomit. He was transported to the hospital, but at age 46, Bob’s life came to an end.

proactive policing


In closing, I simply want to recap a few things:

  • Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.
  • The Bible is the Word of God.
  • We need to be armed with the Word of God.
  • All of God’s Word is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
  • If you’re sold out, praise God.
  • If you’re lukewarm, I urge you to get off the fence, it’s a dangerous place.
  • If you’re seeking, skeptical, or doubting, I’d challenge you to research the historicity and authenticity of Scripture in comparison to other faith based systems. In doing so, analyze the behavior of the apostles who went on to die for their faith. While people may die believing something to be true, as we have seen in some religions, no one dies for something they know to be false. If the claims of Jesus are a con game, the disciples knowingly died for a fraud.
  • Finally, if you’re agnostic or atheist, you have nothing to lose by checking it out. Yet I’d ask you to be intellectually honest. Apply the same rigid standards to your own system of belief—whether it’s evolution, humanism, determinism, pluralism, or whatever-ism—as you would to Christianity.

Final Considerations

The Bible says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son. Whoever believes in him, will not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

If you believe that Jesus came to forgive your sins, and you want to follow him, let God know. There are no magical words that need to be uttered. He knows the condition of your heart.

Scripture also says, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

So God not only knows the condition of your heart, but He wants you to express it to others. If he is drawing you into a relationship with Him, let someone know.

For those who think they are somehow disqualified from God’s love, listen to the words of Jesus who said:

“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life” (John 5:24).

My Prayer for Cops

Father-God, thank you for these men and women behind the badge. You have gifted each one to be a sheepdog. And for that we are grateful.

Would you hear the petitions of each heart? Would you whisper into their ears so they know you exist? Would you move mountains in their world, as your sovereignty proves supreme?

I ask for favor for each one as they seek your face. May your guiding hand of protection be over each law enforcement family? May the trials and tribulations they encounter strengthen their resolve as they look to you for answers! We ask for an eternal perspective in order deal with the grief that evil casts upon us. May you illuminate light in a dark world?

Finally, we thank you in advance for the ultimate victory that you’ve promised to those who love you and respond to your call in their life.

I pray in the name of Jesus, amen!

Jim McNeff, partner and managing editor, Law Enforcement Today

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