On Saturday, September 12, a gunman approached a Los Angeles County Sheriff vehicle parked at the Martin Luther King Transit Center in Compton, California, raised his pistol, and shot two deputies multiple times at point-blank range. By the grace and miraculous mercy of God, both deputies, sworn in only 14 months prior, are expected to fully recover.
“Lead with compassion, serve with humility, and courageously seek justice for all.” These are the three core values of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, values that also reflect the fruit of godly character emphasized in God’s Word. Every deputy sworn into the LASD commits to a character of “integrity, compassion, and courage,” and a life in which they “serve our communities, protect life, hold themselves and each other accountable, while respecting the dignity and rights of all.”
Like all governing officials and law enforcement officers (LEOs), these men and women are community servants established by God (Rom. 13:1), for the sake of our society. Christ’s church joyfully acknowledges, respectfully submits to, and faithfully partners with LEOs to maintain civility and order in this fallen world (Rom. 13:5). This unprovoked attack by the shooter—ambushing and seriously injuring two deputies—is an ungodly, horrible, and cowardly violence.
Lead with Compassion
The word “compassion” is derived from the Latin phrase, in situ, meaning, “to suffer with.” As pastors and church planters, we’ve been preaching, encouraging, and exhorting our people to navigate this crisis in America with biblical clarity and Christ-like compassion and empathy.
Immediately following the ambush, Claudia Apolinar, a 31-year-old deputy and mother to a 6-month-old boy, shot several times herself, exited her patrol vehicle to help her partner to safety. He was bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds, so Claudia applied a tourniquet to his arm, effectively saving his life. At the risk of her life, Claudia’s compassion (in situ) was revealed in a sacrificial manner akin to our Savior Jesus Christ—who demonstrated ultimate compassion in saving sinners by laying down his life.
Serve with Humility
In light of this event at the MLK Transit Center, we’re reminded of the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The darkness of racial injustice will be dispelled only by the light of forgiving love. We [the church] must in strength and humility meet hate with love.” Dr. King preached of Jesus’s life and death, reminding all who listened that the One to whom all authority and power was given, didn’t wield his power for himself, but “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Phil.2:7), choosing to endure both civil and cosmic injustice—the wrath of a corrupt moral order, and the overwhelming wrath of God as penalty for our sins.
As we look on earthly acts of humility and love demonstrated by law enforcement officers, we’re reminded and behold the beauty of the sinless Christ, who demonstrated ultimate humility and love, and for our sake, was made to be sin, “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). The perpetrator of this crime may receive his just punishment, but Jesus Christ endured the penalty we deserved to endow us with his righteousness.
Courageously Seek Justice for All
Hours after the shooting, a group of individuals converged on St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, California, where the injured deputies were taken for treatment, chanting, “We hope they die!” What a depiction of the racial tension and polarization woven into the torn fabric of American society, when law enforcement officers, established to preserve civility, are victimized as targets, vilified as the enemy, and vitiated—dehumanized and canceled—in the society they swore to protect.
The imago Dei abides in those in positions of authority, such as law enforcement officers, and when stewarded faithfully, provides glimpses of God’s just and compassionate character. It’s inconsistent with the Christian gospel and witness to celebrate this act of cowardice as a counterattack or as revenge (Rom. 13:2) toward racial injustice. The justice that Christ’s church pursues in the world calls for this evil act to be punished to the fullest extent of the law, while praying for the restoration and recovery of the officers attacked.
Additionally, as news spread on September 23 of the Kentucky grand jury’s decision not to bring charges against the officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s death—while justifying their use of force—anger and violence erupted again over the apparent injustice. Sadly, on the heels of this decision, two law enforcement officers in Louisville, Kentucky were reportedly shot in retaliation. We cannot simply oppose the brutality of law enforcement officers, while dismissing acts of brutality against law enforcement officers.
Acts 29 pastor, Rudy Rubio, of Reformed Church of LA in Lynwood, California, arranged a pastoral prayer walk in support of local LEOs, calling Christians and clergy to remember that being “pro-police” and “anti-police brutality” aren’t mutually exclusive realities. May we, with continued clarity, be a voice of compassion, humility, and courage for all who experience injustice. Let’s pray for the continued recovery of the four wounded LEOs, sheriffs, and police in our nation, and for the ultimate justice of Jesus Christ to prevail.