I recently wanted to lead a short devotional encouraging those in the church security ministry. I came across the Old Testament passage Psalm 122 which, in brief, is a song of ascent reflecting on the sometimes harrowing journey of God’s faithful to Jerusalem with the purpose of worshiping their Lord amidst peace, security, unity, and joy once within the gates. I love the parallel between the house of the Lord in Psalm 122 and the church today, at least what it is typically desired to be.
My goal was two-fold:
1. to encourage church security team members, and
2. to avoid the typical passages frequently quoted by law enforcement and security professionals alike (i.e. Matthew 5:9, Ephesians 6:11).
After further consideration, I’ve decided to address the “cliche” passages claimed by law enforcement and general law-abiding gun-toters in the hope of applying context to the passages as well as examining Psalm 122 which is possibly a lesser addressed passage from a church security perspective.
*As a disclaimer regarding the passages that I refer to as cliche, I mean to neither diminish the divine inspiration of scripture nor admonish the resulting positive emotional response to the passages in any way. I merely intend to maintain the proper context of Matthew 5:9 and Ephesians 6:11 while delineating the modern day applicability of Psalm 122 in current church security endeavors.
Matthew 5:9 (ESV):
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Being a Christian, law enforcement officer and chaplain as well as a church security team member, I can’t help but feel a flutter of emotion when I read this verse. I believe a positive emotional response with specific reference to my profession and church ministry is warranted and appropriate, but the intended audience of this passage was probably not law enforcement/security personnel and most certainly wasn’t exclusively to us. Being a peacemaker is one of Jesus’ beatitudes that can bring his followers into a closer relationship to God as we progress in ministry for him. Peacemakers strive for spiritual well-being, both individual and corporate. While Matthew 5:9 can certainly be applied to professions or ministries specifically charged with keeping the peace (worldly or otherwise), all Christians should strive to be peacemakers in the general sense of inner spiritual peace, peace among believers “and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14, ESV).
Ephesians 6:11 (ESV):
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
Whenever I read or hear this verse in law enforcement circles, it seems as though the focus is on the language of the armor, weapons and equipment such as in the verses that follow which include the belt, breastplate, shoes (not usually the one that screams tactical), shield, helmet, and sword. Security personnel carry equipment and/or weapons to defend against flesh and blood, precisely what this passage is not about. As verse 12 says, we don’t put on the armor of God to fight against flesh and blood but against cosmic powers and spiritual forces in the heavenly places. The objects of the prepositions of nearly each phrase in verses 14-17 are the keys to the warfare being addressed here.
Belt of truth (v. 14)
Breastplate of righteousness (v. 14)
Shoes = readiness given by the gospel of peace (v. 15)
Shield of faith (v. 16)
Helmet of salvation (v. 17)
Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (v. 17)
The language for physical attire, equipment and weapons are metaphors for the logical, spiritual and emotional tools required for victory in spiritual warfare. I’m probably not imparting some long-lost exegesis to many considering that the plain language with which this text is expressed requires minimal interpretation. I simply want to point out that when we approach scripture with our preconceived notions focused on our particular circumstances, we tend to miss the thrust of the text as intended by the context of the whole passage.
Being ready to speak the word of truth with the promise of salvation through faith in His righteousness is our greatest weapon. However, If there is a technique to which we can apply this passage, it doesn’t have to do with a duty belt, body armor, swords, or, from a more modern perspective, firearms; it would be verbal de-escalation. Verbal de-escalation techniques are valuable and should be employed within the church security realm, but the Christian handbook, the Bible, contains the foundation of successful verbal de-escalation. Holding on to truth in righteousness, standing ready with the gospel of peace, the word of God, “we can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (v. 16).
Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV):
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The fruit of the spirit is our most valuable asset while protecting the flock. Truth (Eph. 6:14) and love (Gal. 5:22) in the power of the Holy Spirit can be a powerful motivator for good, and we should rely on them more than any physical weapons or protective armor.
Matthew 5:9 and Ephesians 6:11 are powerful motivational verses that should elicit positive responses from all Christians and encourage a God-centered walk as well as a Spirit-led ministry. We should all strive to be peacemakers adorned with and wielding the full armor of God (we may or may not happen to carry firearms as well).
Finally, Psalm 122 (ESV):
1 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” 2 Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! 3 Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together, 4 to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord. 5 There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David. 6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you! 7 Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!” 8 For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!” 9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.
The heading of this Psalm in the English Standard Version is Let Us Go to the House of the Lord. In verses 1&2, the Psalmist, most-likely David, expresses his excitement at the declaration of the trek to the house of the Lord, and once within the gates “standing” (v. 2): the Hebrew âmad meaning to stand, remain, endure, take one’s stand (Strong’s). It is our hope that the people who make their journeys to the church in which we serve relish the ability to worship and fellowship in a house of God and feel secure while doing so.
In verse 3, the description of Jerusalem is a “city that is bound firmly together”. The Hebrew word here for “bound” is hâbar which means to unite, be in league, have fellowship with. The sojourners’ intent was to give thanks to the name of the Lord (v. 4) in unified fellowship within the gates. There is also a sense of spiritual unity when our church people are joined, coupled together in like-mindedness.
In verse 6, the Psalmist requests prayers for peace in Jerusalem, “May they be secure who love you!” and in verses 7&8 he reiterates his yearning for peace and security within the walls for his “brothers’ and companions’ sake”. The “house” of the Lord our God (v. 9) can also be read as “household” (Hebrew: bayet). This reminds me of the way we use the word church today. We frequently refer to the church as a place of worship or house of the Lord, but, of course, the church is a household, the body of Christ, a fellowship of believers.
The goal of a church security ministry is to facilitate peace, security and order for the good of the people who gather in the house of the Lord to worship and fellowship in unity. Our prayer every Sunday in the hope of remaining bound firmly together should be “May they be secure who love you!”