The police. They have often been ranked as the most corrupt sector of many African governments. These should-be law and justice enforcers are often seen acting as decided obstructionists. It’s hard to argue that police corruption in the form of bribery and extortion is not endemic in our continent. This is especially true in Sub-Saharan Africa. Sadly, living on what is statistically the most corrupt continent in the world entails familiarity with corrupt police, from individual officers to entire forces. Perhaps the only other people that might hold a candle to them are politicians. But I digress.
We’ve all heard enraging stories of how corrupt police accept bribes in exchange for not pursuing an investigation or arrest. If you pepper that with numerous media stories of police brutality, what you have is a broadly and understandably angry populace.
We Must Avoid Prejudice
Because of this reputation, the general attitude towards the police even among sincere Christians ranges from a low-key suspicion to outright hatred and spite. Given this reality however, I’d like to clarify. I sincerely believe that not all police are corrupt. This belief hangs on the fact that some of them are Christians. You probably know some too. There are always exceptions to the rule. Even among the “whitewashed tombs” that made up the church in Sardis, there were “still a few names, people who had not soiled their garments” (Revelation 3:4).
The general attitude towards the police ranges from a low-key suspicion to outright hatred.
It is these brothers and sisters in the police force that leave me wondering how it must feel to be a Christian cop. How does one survive the stigma? What does one do with the transferred guilt? Does anyone care that some of them have integrity? Do we believe that not all cops are abusing their power for financial gain or career advancement? Despite the complexities involved here, there are at least three truth infused Christian responses to the issue of corrupt police.
How to Love the Police, Even Corrupt Ones
Surely Christians should care. Jesus called on his people to love those who are hard to love, even our enemies (Matthew 5:44). But the Bible is even more emphatic on “doing good to those who are of the family of faith” (Galatians 6:10). Therefore we must do the hard work of caring for Christian cops. Doing good to them. They are as much Christians as the rest of us. They only happen to have unfaithful colleagues and a tricky work environment. Simultaneously, we are not excused from carrying out Jesus’ command to love our neighbours, even corrupt police.
1. Pray for the Police, Both the Christians and the Corrupt
We should also pray that the Lord would stem the tide of the vice.
How sweet it would be if members of our churches that are cops heard us praying for them and their comrades. By doing this we can both model praying for authorities and teach others how to use theirs. Since falling into corrupt practices is a primary occupational hazard for police, even Christian cops, then we ought to care by praying for them “not to enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). When opportunities arise, let us lovingly and prayerfully remind them “not to extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusations and to be content with their wages” (Luke 3:14). We should also pray that the Lord would stem the tide of the vice among them. That’s part of “making intercessions for all people” (1 Timothy 2:1). We must pray for the police, however corrupt.
2. Share the Gospel with Corrupt Police
Most of us are guilty of treating cops like irredeemable sinners.
Recently, Matt Smethurst aptly reminded us that “the greatest obstacle to evangelism is not unbelievers. The greatest obstacle to evangelism is Christians who don’t share the gospel”. Most of us are guilty of treating cops like irredeemable sinners. We have joined the rest of the world in treating them like social lepers. Hating them almost feels virtuous. But fellow Christians who work in the police force would be greatly encouraged if we took seriously our mandate to evangelise their colleagues, together with them. After all, “Christ came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Cops may be great sinners in our view, but not beyond the bounds of redemption.
3. Refuse to give Bribes
Hard as it may be, Christians would do well to refuse to give bribes at all times. Vices grow because they are nurtured. It must be demoralising to Christian police workers when fellow saints bribe their corrupt colleagues. In 2019, the Global Corruption Barometer revealed that more than one of four people—approximately 130 million citizens in 35 African countries surveyed—paid a bribe to access public services. Some of course were paid to the police. I wonder how many Christians were part of these sad statistics!
Vices grow because they are nurtured.
In the end, corrupt police provide Christians with an opportunity to put God-honouring Christian conduct on display. Christians who work in the forces should endeavour to be lights in those dark spaces and their fellow saints should encourage them by prayer, evangelism, and a staunch refusal to pay bribes. Police stigma might not go away anytime soon, but God helping us, Christians can tilt the scales.