Am I to be My Brother’s Keeper?

Am I to be My Brother’s Keeper?

by Dr. D. Wayne Beeks

Over the past 20+ years, in addition to my service as a Deputy Sheriff, I have worked in the corporate world.  I can honestly say there are many people in that corporate world whom would scare the “bajeebers” out of me if they held a stapler in their hand, let alone a weapon.   However, as we go through our day serving as police officers, and deputies, we would scarcely give a second thought to a co-worker handling a weapon in our midst.

In our calling of service as law enforcement officers, in service to the Lord, and to the communities we serve, we share a common bond and brotherhood which is unique, and because of this bond we also carry a shared responsibility for each other’s safety.  This unique relationship. became oddly clear to me one day when I sat in my office as three fellow detectives disassembled their guns, and began cleaning them one morning while having coffee.  I reflected on how every day we work together knowing that our partner would put his life on the line as readily as I would to protect the life of another.  What other job carries with it such a level of unspoken faith and trust in each other?

We work through our shifts with our fellow officers knowing each of us are willing to put our lives in danger for each other and the citizens they serve.  We confront the unknown dangers that come before us each day, and we have each other’s back.  We become the keepers of each other’s safety.  But should it end there?  Are we not brothers and sisters off duty as well as on duty?

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  (John 15:13, ESV)

During the recent months, there has been what seems to be a noticeable increase in suicides among police officers.  In fact, statistics show more police officer’s commit suicide than will die in the line of duty (LOD).  Each year approximately 130 police officers will take their own lives; that’s about 10 police officer suicide a month.  This is a heart wrenching statistic we must come together to end.  Some simply define suicide as the “a permanent solution for a temporary problem.”  But what I feel better defines suicide is “an impulsive decision made purely of emotion, devoid of the ability to see past the immediate situation because of internal pain and suffering.”

Part of what we learn during our careers is how to compartmentalize our feelings, to push them down, it’s essential to be able to survive in this profession for any length of time.  Because of the responsibilities of this profession, we are afforded a front row seat to the most unimaginable carnage and evil man perpetuates upon one another.  If we didn’t learn to compartmentalize and abstract ourselves from it, we would break down and leave the job after a short time.  As police officers, we’re so very good, to a fault, of hiding and holding our emotions and internal pain.  True, there is a time and place for this to be done, but just as water fills a vessel until it over flows or it is emptied, emotions fill us until we empty or reach a point where we can’t hold anymore grief and burden.  Some of us turn to alcohol to dull the pain.  Some of us just withdraw into ourselves shutting out family and friends.  Maybe this works in some sense for a while, but in time, that vessel becomes over filled and can hold no more, and that internal stress and emotion must be released.

So, are you your brother’s keeper?  In the book of Genesis, God asks Cain where his brother Abel was, already knowing that Cain had killed him:

“(9) Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”  (Genesis 4:9, ESV).

Cain had killed his brother Abel out of jealousy and anger of Abel having found favor over him with the Lord.  The context of our question, “am I my brother’s keeper” you may point out is not purely the same.  However, Cain was Abel’s keeper in accordance with God’s word that we love and keep one another:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  (John 13:34, ESV)

So then to some extent we are also our brother’s keeper.  If as brothers and sisters united in Christ and in a common calling of service, we without question have each other’s back on duty, then would we not have each other’s back off duty as well?

While we cannot be responsible for each other’s salvation, for one another’s safety, or of their actions while we are apart from each other, we are to some degree responsible to God and as a Christian for oversight of each other.  In observance of love and obedience to God’s word, and not to commit acts of violence upon one another for we are of one body:

“(12)   For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  (13) For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

(14)   For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  (15) If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  (16)  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  (17) If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing?  If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be?  (20) As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

(21) The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  (22) On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, (23) and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, (24) which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, (25) that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  (26) If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”  (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).

and we are to are to keep each other in love, with a tender heart, and a humble mind:

“(8) Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”  (Peter 3:8, ESV).

So, in acceptance with the word of God, in unity, you and I are our brother’s keeper.  Give that, in as much as I am my brother’s keeper, each of us also needs to release our burden we carry through prayer, and by confiding with each other.  During a police officer’s careers, everyone needs to find that one person with which they can confide in, to vent, to release their pain, in confidence, and without fear of gossip.  In the same manner, you must be willing to be that person to another.

Reach out to one another, and if you need to, the following are some resources where you can reach out to, or share with another in need of support:

24-Hour Crisis Hotlines – National

  • 1-800-SUICIDE – Hope-Line Suicide Hotline
  • 1-800-273-TALK (8255)  –  National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  • 1-800-273-TALK (8255) ( *press 1)   –  National Veterans Crisis Line:

The following resource is especially for police officers and public safety workers.  You will able to speak with someone that understands what you got through as they have been there:

  • Safe-Call ……………  st.riley@safecallnow.org  …  1-206-427-9120

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Lord our men and women in public safety selflessly give of themselves every day, and in doing so deal with so much stress and sadness in the performance of their duties to their communities.  Let us love one another, be of tender heart, and of humble mind.  We pray you may lighten their burden and comfort their heart, and may they reach out to one another when they feel they can’t go on any longer.

In Jesus’s name we pray,

Amen