You see, we give proper respect to peace officers not because they are a necessary evil; but, because in the face of evil – of this world’s chaos and mayhem – they are a necessary good. We submit – give respect – because they are here “for the punishment of those who do evil and to the praise of those who do good – this is God’s will, that by doing good, evil is quashed and ignorant foolishness is made quiet.” (cf. 1 Peter 2:13-15) And more, so that trust – faith – can be fostered for those seeking to live quiet and godly lives.
Carved into the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington DC are the words of the Roman historian, Tacitus: “In valor there is hope.” St. Paul in the magnum opus of his work, his letter to the Romans, tells us that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God [and that] the peace officer is God's servant for our good... [Thus], we pay to all what is owed to them ... respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” (Romans 13:1, 4, 7)
Today though we mourn the loss of ones so dearly loved, we also celebrate the peace officers dedicated to serving their communities, who work tirelessly to transform neighborhoods, and who in the face of daily threats seek out innovate ways to improve their craft and uphold the rule of law.
Peace Officers put their lives on the line to protect ours, sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice. In the past year, we have seen a tragic wave of line of duty deaths, and have mourned the loss of too many peace officers.
In December of 2010 U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was laid to rest after giving the ultimate sacrifice in the performance of his duties. Before that he had left this note with one of his friends revealing his thoughts on his vocation: “If you seek to do battle with me this day, you’ll receive the best I am capable of giving. It may not be enough, but it will be everything I have to give. You may defeat me, but you will be lucky to escape with your life. You may kill me, but I’m willing to die if necessary. I do not fear death for I have been close enough to it on numerous occasions that it no longer concerns me. What I do fear is the loss of my honor and would rather die fighting than to have it said that I was without courage.”
But we must know that without courage compassion wavers. The ultimate peace officer, the one described by the prophet Isaiah, the one who “was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) The one who, on the cross of Calvary, took on and defeated the ultimate bad guys of sin, death, and the devil, He said this: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends ...” (John 15:13-14)
You see the valor in the sacrifices such as those who have given their lives in the line of duty – the ones who we honor here today give us hope. Hope because they demonstrated to us the “greater love” and they are our friends.
We have said, “Without courage, compassion wavers.” But without compassion, courage has no focus. And so today we not only give respect, we not only pay honor, but we remember. We remember those who have shown us the “greater love.”
“Andras Tamas had been drafted into the army, but the authorities mistook his native Hungarian language for the gibberish of a lunatic and had him committed to a psychiatric hospital in Russia. Then they forgot about him for fifty-three years.
[Several] years ago, a doctor began to realize what had happened and helped Tamas recover the memories of who he was and where he came from. He [was then] returned home to Budapest as “the last prisoner of World War II.”
This old man hadn’t seen his own face in five decades. So for hours the old man studied his face in a mirror. The deep-set eyes. The gray stubble on the chin. The furrows of the brow. It was his face, but what a startling revelation to see it after fifty-three years.”
What if, what if we did not endeavor to remember? Not only would these heroes be forgotten but would we even remember what we look like – what we look like because of the “greater love” that they have shown us?