<strong>A few months before he was killed in the line of duty, Memphis Police Officer Timothy Warren made a YouTube video expressing his deep internal struggle between his “Two Paths” – between a Christian “life of service, compassion, seeking and forbearance” and a life in “police authority, command and governance.”
“Which path to follow?” Officer Warren said.
How would you respond to Officer Warren’s questions?</strong>
We who are members of the clergy live, to some degree, at a distinct disadvantage from the members of the communities of faith we serve. While we get up each day and go to places of employment where our faith is our work, those who populate the places of worship where we preach and teach are privileged – and unmistakably challenged – to engage their faith at work in ways that we are not.
Slain Memphis police officer Timothy Warren vividly depicted his deep, heartfelt desire to see his commitment to follow after Jesus permeate every part of his existence. Given what we in the wider community have come to know about his persistent pursuit for authenticity in his faith walk, is it any wonder that he wrestled with the questions that he did? Here was a person who devoted himself to his work that entails both serving and protecting; a noble and vital calling to pursue for the sake of others. More than that, by all appearances, he seemed to be someone who was even more earnest in his devotion to live as much like Jesus as he could; the high call of every Christian person in living our lives. Sometimes, though, discerning how to mesh those two things is not easy.
Regrettably the Bible does not provide us clear, concise, step-by-step directions on how to handle every conundrum we encounter. Officer Warren’s rhetorical questions about following Jesus and fulfilling his vocational duties, minding the rules and keeping in line with God reflect the nature of a soul engaged in a serious search. Would that we all could remember that, in following Jesus, we are setting our sights on one who questioned the rules, challenged the limits of the law, all in pursuit of the loving heart of God. One cannot help but sense that perhaps Officer Warren was nearer to the Jesus way than he himself might have realized. His deep concern for how people in our world are treated – evidenced by his engagement with the ordinary folks along his beat – beautifully illustrate something that is near to the heart of Christian faith; namely, we care deeply about how people in the world are treated. Therefore we live with neither aggressive rigidity about keeping every rule just so, nor with saccharine sweet permissiveness that says anything goes.
It is a fine, but sometimes blurry, line that we walk. Many people enjoy the privilege of doing more than pursuing their careers. While careers tend to focus on what’s in it for me, callings are all about loving God and living lives that show it. Based on what we know of Officer Warren’s life, I think we know something of what it means to do more than show up for work. He gave his life answering a call.