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Climbing The Mountain

Matt Brownell, Tim Adams, and Van Owens

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Climbing the Mountain is a weekly podcast devoted to the Word of God and its application in the lives of believers today. Grounded in the Sermon of the Mount, we dive into connecting scriptures to explore themes and implications.

Episode 22 - Enemy Love - Part 3

March 3, 2023

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As you know this podcast covers a wide variety of topics, including some intense ones. In particular, in this one, we discuss suicidal ideation and police officers. If this is something that is not helpful for you to listen to, feel free to skip this one.

As we dive into Matthew 5:43-48 43 and look at what it means to really love others, we will be joined by a special guest, Darryl Owens, who is an elder in the Boston Church of Christ and a police officer who specializes in training other officers in the use of force. I can think of no one better to help us bridge the gap between retaliation and loving your enemy and all the thorny questions that usually arise when we study these passages.

Hey y'all, Tim here with a quick note.
As you know, this podcast covers a wide variety of topics, including some intense ones.
In particular, in this episode we discussed suicidal ideation and police officers.
So if that's something that may not be helpful for you to listen to.
Feel free to skip this one.
Hey, I'm Matt Brownell.
And I'm Van Owens.
And I'm Tim Adams.
Welcome to Climbing the Mountain, where we dive into the scriptures and discuss themes,
connections and real life application.
We're kicking off a series here where we're going to examine the sermon on the mount
and discuss implications for this teaching for Christians today.
So we're back. We are continuing our discussion about retaliation and enmity.
And we've had a couple of really good conversations that have been really encouraging, really edifying,
and also I think very, very deeply challenging.
The last time we talked, we talked about what it means to ignore Jesus' words,
how if we ignore his words about loving our enemies, we lose an opportunity to become more Christ-like.
And we also talked about how we define enemies, how it's so easy for us to other people as a verb,
and to make them them and to create enemies in that way.
We're going to continue our conversation.
I'm fortunate enough to have my brother and my elder and my police officer brother, Darryl Owens, here to help us with this conversation.
So kicking it off, Matt, would you go back and read our passage for us?
Sure. Okay. So this is Matthew 5:43-48.
You have heard that it was said, love your neighbor and hate your enemy,
but I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?
Do not even pagans do that?
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
All right. So launching off into that, when we hear Jesus say, love our enemies,
it leaves us in a difficult place, imagining a world in which a Christian could participate in armed conflict or even carry a gun, as police do.
Is Jesus really saying you cannot serve in any armed forces? What do we think?
There's been not a little conversation at this point.
And I want to say once again, this is Darryl Owens answering this question.
I am not answering this question for the Boston church, and I am not answering this question for the Boston police department.
My answer is, I think it depends.
I think it depends on the nature of that individual and the nature of the force that they are joining.
I work as a police trainer, as you know.
And from time to time, I'll get somebody in my defensive tactics class where we do a lot of jujitsu-related, Krav-maga-related combative techniques.
And every once in a while, I'll get somebody who says, hey, Officer Owens, can we do, during warm-ups, can we do a war cry?
And I'm like, no, we will not be doing a war cry. What do you mean by a war cry?
One guy wanted to say, kill after the warm-ups.
I'm like, no, you need to go back and redo your psych eval.
So I think it does depend on the nature of that person.
Some people, I was having this talk just Thursday morning when I was in St. Louis in Ferguson.
And I was having a discussion with an instructor, and he said, most people join our job to help people.
No one says, I want to be a cop so I can go hurt people.
I don't think people join the military to destroy people.
I don't think so. There's a lot of good work that happens in the military.
I know a young man who's in the Coast Guard, and I said, why do you want to do that?
He said, because I want to help people. I want to be a rescuer of people.
I think that that can be noble. I think that it depends on the individual conscience of the disciple.
I would certainly hope that any disciple who is making that decision to join the military or the police force
has a solidly intact relationship with God and with other disciples who can help that young individual to see where that service would be.
I would not begin as a leader in the church. I would not want to begin telling someone what to do with their career.
That's a bit too intrusive in my opinion. I think I would more want to rely on who they are spiritually
and allow their conscience and their walk with God and the Holy Spirit who lives within them
to dictate the course of their future and their career in whatever occupation they chose.
Darryl and I used to take karate together way, way, way back in the day.
It went one way for him and went another way for me.
He thinks he can beat me in fried chicken, but he never said he could beat me in a fight.
I wouldn't say that.
I just want to make sure you guys heard that.
I had a perfect career in karate tournaments. I went to two. It was two knockouts. I got knocked out twice.
That's how that went. There was a guy that came to our karate class when we were teenagers.
He only came to a couple of classes. The teacher was demonstrating a particular throw.
A way to throw somebody. The teacher said, are there any questions?
He raised his hand and said, Sensei, what if he's a big man, like 250, 250, 275 pounds?
How would I knock him out? Sensei kept trying to say, so this is something that's applicable.
He said, no, he's like 250. He's like six feet tall.
He was obviously explaining to somebody very specific that he wanted to take out.
The class was about self-defense. But this guy came to the class because he wanted to knock out some 250 pound six foot tall guy.
I think that that's something that it does depend, I think, on what's in your heart.
It does.
On how you're seeing it. If you're seeing it as service, if you're seeing it as it's different from someone.
I agree. There are probably not a lot of people who join the police force to say,
I'm joining the police force to hurt people.
I know of individuals who have joined the army because they say, I want to go and fight.
I want to go and kill somebody. I like guns and I like to use them so I'm joining the military.
But it depends on that person's heart.
I know people who have served in the military and who have really served in the military and served people
and done it out of an altruistic desire.
So I do think it depends on that.
For the sake of our listeners, I do want to say that I do think that people have joined police departments with similar unrighteous motives.
It is a nationwide epidemic and we are beginning, some of the work I'm doing outside of the state here is we are beginning to flush out some of those bad examples
and to help them to either find another career at best or pay for crimes at worst.
So I think I said no police officer joins the police department, but I'm not sure of that.
I don't know what's in the heart of everyone.
It reminds me a little of something we talked about with the anger episodes.
Van, you talked about the emotions that it's okay for a guy to express and I did full contact sports.
And so I was just in my mind cycling through the guys who had joined the football or wrestling teams.
And there was a wide range of personalities that joined these groups.
Some people, you could tell they wanted to hit someone and hurt them.
They were the guys that were the balls and the huddle and they're the ones hitting people.
Or they're the ones who, hey, this move is going to be awesome.
I think I could crack someone's rib.
And you got enough guys around each other and oh yeah, rah, rah, rah.
People start talking that way.
And I remember this was an accident, I suplexed someone once in a freestyle tournament and broke their arm.
And I knew something was wrong.
I got up slowly and he'd turned pale and it was really gross looking.
And it was one of the worst feelings I had because I thought, okay, this guy's seriously hurt.
And this is the rest of his wrestling season is done now.
And you know, why this was, why this happened?
Yeah, one of the things I've had, I feel like God has put me on the job that I've done for 33 years.
One of the things that I've done was talk to police officers who've been involved in shootings.
I developed just a whole protocol to help.
It was only a few guys that came to me.
I don't have any degrees, but I'm the use of force guy.
So in talking about and helping them to figure out their case, I would just talk to them.
And I would say that no one who has ever done that has ever come back the same way.
So we're not made to do that.
We're not made to end a human life.
And I know that God is not thrilled with it.
I do think that the job of soldier, the job of police officer has been so falsely advertised to people outside of the world.
I could count on, I've been a police officer for 33 years.
I could count on one hand the times I've had to even point my gun at someone.
I could count on two, the times I've had to unholster it in my career.
And I could count on zero fingers the times I fired at somebody.
And I've been a police officer as a Christian and as a non-Christian.
And it's something that is so far outside of the experience that, I mean, you watch cops on TV, they get into five shootings per episode.
And then they're fine to go to work the next day.
I will tell you, they are never fine to go to work the next day.
They are never fine to go to work the next day.
And the system that does put those officers out in the field too quickly after a critical incident like that is a system that is unfair, doesn't care.
Recently, the president signed legislation to make police officers harming themselves or committing suicide and in the line of duty death.
It is an occupation where it would have the highest, one of the highest percentages of that of any other profession.
So those things, I know that the conversation takes a really dark turn when we talk about that stuff.
But we know, I know, and many people who do my job know that we are not built for that.
That's not what we're built for.
And the people who think it's about that are sorely mistaken and headed for some real trouble, internal and external.
When I look at this, I sort of think of the same, I think the retaliation passage that we looked at the other time, which was about them taking a public law that was meant for the courts to administer justice and then bringing it down to the personal level where you basically turn people into vigilantes.
There's some element to this, right, where I feel like there's a, speaking to the 95% of the time, you're going to be in interpersonal relationships with people and to love people.
I don't think it applies in the same way.
I don't think we should try to make this apply to government officials, armies.
They serve a different function, or even like judges that can sentence someone to death.
I don't see it the same way.
And there's one little example, well, actually there's three.
So there's three soldiers in the New Testament that I think form an interesting lens on this topic.
The first is the one who approaches John the Baptist and he's told to repent, John just tells him not to extort money from anyone to be content with his wages.
And literally he's saying, don't shake people down, neither to defraud.
And it's basically like, be content with your wages.
Don't abuse your position of power.
Violence is, you carry a sword, don't intimidate people with it, with the goal to extort.
John's telling them basically don't abuse your position.
And this in service of greed, it's not a blanket prohibition concerning all violence that a soldier might encounter.
And John doesn't tell him to leave his profession to repent.
Also in Matthew 8, we see Jesus praises the faith of the centurion, a man in authority over other soldiers.
In the context, Jesus just has come down from the Sermon on the Mount and a leper approaches him, someone who's unclean.
And then the centurion, who is likewise unclean, approaches him and Jesus is willing to go into his household and say, no, no, no, no, I'm not worthy.
But Jesus accepts him. And the last example is Acts 10 with Cornelius, who received the Holy Spirit just like the disciples at Pentecost.
So I don't see in those examples something that would say, no, I can't have this kind of profession. It's what you do with it, I think, again.
Yeah, I think that's good. And the anecdote that was shared about that centurion was how charitable he was.
It was shared about what a community person he was and how he had such a good reputation in his community.
And we get those good reputations by loving people.
And so it was obvious that he lived a life of love, although he had this occupation that could possibly involve violent acts.
But it's a very tricky question. And to answer it, which is why I gave the disclaimer, to answer it for self is much easier than to answer it for a group of people.
Because Jesus could see the hearts of people I can't. So I answer it for myself.
Any other thoughts on this? I had one more kind of thought about this with an example, I guess.
And I think this one cuts both ways a little bit because this is a profession where you're carrying a sword, essentially.
I think that so in the U.S. today, we have this something called qualified immunity.
And again, I think this is an example that cuts both ways because this was brought about in our country in the height of the civil rights movement.
Supreme Court passed this legislation in 1967.
And the underlying premise is that government officials, including police, can't be held personally liable for constitutional violations performed during their normal exercise of duty.
So for instance, if a police officer has probable cause to arrest someone, he or she shouldn't be punished with damages if they make an arrest.
The police are to serve justice.
And so in doing so, they may act in ways that your average citizen is not permitted.
And this is where it gets dicey because this has been used in a lot of civil rights violations.
It's come up. So officers can abuse their position of power, which is bad.
And we shouldn't do that. And we live in a fallen world. So that happens.
But underlying it is this higher ideal where someone who is put in a position of authority over others who's got this, this, the sword, basically what I keep referencing the sword because I'm thinking of Romans 13.
But, you know, they're invested with this authority. And part of it is because God loves justice, I think this is how I view it.
Well, you know, qualified immunity is an interest. It's a hot button right now because there has been there has been movements to take it away.
Qualified immunity more precisely is a protection from civil lawsuits.
It does not give officers license to commit crimes, which we've seen police officers crimes played out in real time since everyone now carries a very capable digital recording device, which I think is a good thing.
And now police officers wear body cameras where it is, it is the rule that I have to record any inter when I'm on duty and I'm having an interaction with the civilian public.
It has to be recorded. It could be someone asking me to help them to untree their cat or it could be me getting a call for a robbery in progress, whatever I get, I have to record.
So qualified immunity does not mean that officers will not be punished. There's, you know, there are some things that are that are illegal inhibitors to officers.
When an officer doesn't is not held properly accountable for crimes, that itself is a crime.
And so that is something that the federal government would absolutely investigate, which is why the FBI is such a busy institution right now.
But, but qualified immunity is let's say part of it is also let's say I'm driving my cruiser to get to a to a big call and I have a motor vehicle accident on the way to that call.
Qualified immunity means that to get justice restored to the person who's a victim of that of that car crash, they sue the city and not me personally.
So my house is protected from that lawsuit. My family's income and my savings are protected.
So that's that's more of what qualified immunity is.
Thank you.
It's not a protection against 100% cops are really held to a very high standard for violation of crimes and qualified immunity helps it protects them against civil damages, which, which in some areas has been complained about, but there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what qualified
immunity is as well in the protects protections that are provided to public employees.
I wonder if it's a, is it a good idea for us to read Romans 13?
I, I think we that more with the next, I think we should read that. Yeah. I mean, I think that's kind of where we should probably spend some time.
I've got it pulled up if you want me to go ahead and do it now.
Yeah, sure.
Okay, this is Romans 13. It starts in verse one. It says, let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established the authorities that exist have been established by God.
Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted. And those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of one in authority? Then do what is right. And you'll be commended for the one in authority is God servant for your good.
But if you do wrong, be afraid for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God servants agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment, but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes for the authorities are God servants who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them.
If you owe taxes, pay taxes. If revenue, then revenue. If respect, then respect. If honor, then honor.
Thank you for reading that. I think Romans 13 calls governing authorities God servants. That's really interesting.
I guess related to the previous question, how do we view these kinds of institutions? Are we to separate from them or be part of them or does it matter?
I guess what I was hearing the last one, it kind of matters what our heart is more than our profession. Are we to work as if we're working for the Lord and everything?
And how does that work out if you're in a situation like this?
It's interesting. Whenever I read that scripture or I hear that scripture, my mind always goes to Hebrews 4, the script about the double-edged sword.
The word of God is living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword. That scripture to me is a double-edged sword.
If I only take the single edge, the outward-facing edge, I think everybody needs to submit to the authority that I have.
They need to respect my authority.
But obviously that's the wrong interpretation of that scripture. Obviously.
The scripture is there not to provide a seat of power for authorities.
No, it's to provide a condition of heart for its readers. Your heart, how is your heart?
How is your heart when you get pulled over by the police or when your boss says, I want you to stay late?
Or your father says, no, dinner's at six and that's what time we're going to sit down and have dinner. How does your heart do?
It's not only for – I caution myself in reading that because I'm a man who God has decided to grant authority in many areas in my home life and in my professional life and in my church life.
I have authority in all positions. If I only read that scripture single-edged, if I only read Romans 13 with a single edge,
I get messed up and I can lose my soul if I read it only with a single edge. I can become an autocrat.
I can become corrupt as I talked about before. So I think that the scripture is good, but I don't think that God intended it to be a threat, a compulsion of submission.
I think he – as I read it, I say, God is trying to condition our hearts. And that's why I said earlier about military service.
It depends on the heart of the human that is doing that. It depends on the heart. There are some people – there's a joke in my profession that I know a lot of good people,
but a lot of good people I know would not be good police officers. They would not be. They shouldn't be. And we add to that joke.
I'll say, I love my mom. She's wonderful. She's great, but she would have been a terrible police officer because she's not built for it.
So yeah, it's just an interesting scripture. It's an interesting part of the conversation.
But my caution to self, not to anyone sitting here, anyone who's listening, is to not read this thing with a single edge. It's a double-edged sword. I need to read it that way.
Right after this, you know, it talks about paying taxes. After that, it says that it goes into leave no debt remain outstanding except the continual debt to love each other and that love fulfills the law.
And I think just think that's a really interesting juxtaposition there. And I think the purpose of Paul, maybe even writing this, is for us to love everyone.
And that, you know, the people that carry the sword – I don't think he was under any illusions that they were nice people all the time.
It says that – or a couple chapters earlier that the Christians were being put to death with the sword. So, you know, in all circumstances, you know, we're – but I still find there's this picture of justice that God really loves and wants to uphold.
And, you know, governing officials uphold that kind of service. And so I think if a Christian was to serve in some kind of capacity there, boy, you should set a good example because you have a platform there.
Yeah. It reminds me of a story that I heard from a friend – I've never been in the military, but of course, being a police officer, I have many friends who have served in the military.
This – one of my very closest friends on the police department, I've known him for my entire career. A wonderful man, wonderful family man.
He is the director of music at his church. He's just a great guy. He told me the story once about when he was in Iraq. He was in Iraq for Desert Storm.
And there was one day when he was on patrol. That means that they were out looking for people who were looting, committing crimes.
And he and the guys that were on the same hummer with him, they got thirsty. So they pulled over and they went into this little roadside restaurant to buy Coca-Cola.
You can buy Coca-Cola anywhere in the world. And so they walked in and they were ordering their Coca-Cola.
Everybody understands what Coca-Cola is and everybody can tell you the price. And they were buying their Coca-Cola, but off to his right, he could see there was a back room in this restaurant.
And he peeked around the corner of the back room and there was three – he was him and two other U.S. soldiers. There were three Iraqi soldiers in the back room of this restaurant.
And as he looked around the corner, he made eye contact with one of the Iraqi soldiers. And the Iraqi soldier just shook his head like, no, like we're not going to fight here.
And he just gave the guy the thumbs up and bought his Coca-Cola and went away. And he said there were children in the restaurant.
There were civilians in the restaurant. And if they had had a conflict, that there would have been a lot of damage.
But those two men, human to human, saw each other's hearts in that moment. And they just said, we're not doing this right now.
I'm going to take my Coca-Cola. I'm going to go back and get in my Humvee and we're going to drive away and hopefully I'll never see you again.
And if you think about the power of that man in that moment, I mean, he'll never get a Medal of Honor for saving lives in that moment.
Right? No one's going to bring him up on the congressional stage and say, hey, we're pinning this on you because, man, you just saved the lives of all those women and children and civilians who were in that restaurant.
He'll never get the Medal of Honor, but he did save all those lives by making a human connection with someone.
And people who have asked me, Darryl, how does it feel to be a police officer and a Christian? I always say, can you imagine if all of us were Christians?
And I think the same is true with soldiers, right? Can you imagine if all of them had that ability to connect?
And we talked about it here in a previous conversation, a previous podcast where we talked about love erases enmity.
And in that moment, those two men connecting, just a beautiful moment that saved many lives.
And who knows the impact that those little children now that it's 25, 20, almost 30 years, my goodness, I'm so old,
that it's almost 30 plus years later, what impact did those children have?
What were their lives going from beyond that point? And just from him making a human connection with another soldier from the other team?
Yeah, I love the way this passage, like so many other passages, it starts sort of in almost, it feels like in response to a question.
Should we submit to the government? The government's corrupt or the government is this or the government is that, should we submit?
And he's very specific about it, but then it ends with respect and honor and love.
And it goes straight into love, and he even quotes a lot of what we've been talking about in the Sermon on the Mount.
He talks about not committing adultery, he talks about the commandments, and he talks about love, and it all ends up in love.
And that that's what it's all about. It always circles back to that.
This has been great, guys. I don't think we have enough time to finish it out here. Maybe we can come back one more time.
Hey, y'all, Tim here again. I hope you enjoyed and were motivated to a greater love of Christ by this conversation between my brothers and friends.
You might have noticed that my voice wasn't present in this conversation.
We're having hard conversations, and in this case I had difficulty feeling like I could contribute my viewpoint.
In the next episode, we'll revisit this topic and have a chance to address some of the ways that my convictions may differ from the others.
Thanks for joining us on this journey as we wrestle with God's Word and community.

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