Tonight there will be a candlelight vigil at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. I love cops. I can’t help it. What is not to cherish when you fully understand that which makes a hero.
Men and women enter the profession firmly believing they have superhuman powers to forge through injustice. Yet today we remember and mourn our brothers and sisters whose families learned the capes of their loved ones were a figment of our imagination as their bodies of steel succumbed to bullets, deadly weapons, the crush of impact at collision, or the erosion caused by disease. Indeed they were mortal after all.
We have averaged 154 line of duty deaths (LODD) per year over the past decade, including 136 in 2014, the year that Officer Darren Wilson did everything in his power to avoid being the 137th victim. Sadly, it is unlikely that a single person who buried him alive can recall any of the names from the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP).
The song, Hallelujah, was sung at the vigil last year. It is a secular song with a spiritual title and interesting lyrics. The word “hallelujah” formed from two Hebrew words. “Hallel,” which means to praise, and “Jah,” short for “Jehovah,” which means self-existent and eternal one. It is the name of the Lord, which emphasizes that God has no beginning or end. Understandingly, hallelujah is used to express praise, joy, or thanks, especially to God.
I’ve read the words to the tune several times, and discovered the lyrics can be open to interpretation, as can many songs. But King David was described as baffled. If you read the Psalms, you will learn the shepherd boy who became king was anything but confused. He was firm and confident when obedient to God, and in mourning when confronted with his decisions that led to destruction.
Finally, the lyricist wrote,
“Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya.”
With all due respect to the creative songwriter, Cops express far more love in this profession than being tactically superior to opposing forces. We have evidence of mortality on display today, and that is love.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” wrote the apostle John. The colleagues we remember today did more than that. They laid down their life for complete strangers!
If King David was a real figure in history, and he was a man after God’s own heart as Scripture says, what can we learn as we yearn for eternal answers? We believe there is more to living than dying, but what is it? If God exists, and he is a good God, why do bad things happen to good people?
There are many pieces to this conversation, but let me introduce one. Regardless of spiritual background, or the lack thereof, I think we’d all uniformly agree that people have free will—the ability to make decisions on our own. God (or your substitute for deity) gave us the ability to choose. We make good and bad decisions. Some people make evil choices and severe consequences occur. We’d all be puppets serving a God who withdrew freewill. But since he offered us the ability to choose or reject him, he also allows us to live with the consequences—to the honorable and dishonorable alike.
“Whoa, slow down preacher boy,” I can hear many of you saying. Actually, I am not a pastor, but a career cop who saw lives destroyed by humanity acting inhumanely. That is exactly why I take spiritual issues seriously, and I believe there is more than this present life. Otherwise, I’d be the chief among all cynics!
King David’s son, Solomon, wrote when he was sitting on the throne, “He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Since I believe God put eternity into everyone’s heart, I also believe that is why people are drawn to him during crisis, especially funerals and graveside services. The real question is what will we do when we believe he is tugging at our heart? I believe we all have freewill to seek him as he is engaged in the Eternal Pursuit of each of us.
– Jim McNeff