In a statement in the House of Commons today, the Home Secretary announced that the powers for police to “stop and search” are to be revised.
This follows the revelation that up to a quarter of such searches may have been illegal – which contributes to the, sometimes uneasy, relationship between the police and some groups of society.
With policing in this country being based on the consent of citizens, a good and healthy relationship between the police and citizens is essential and the sort of behaviour referenced in this report and statement can seriously undermine it.
In a totally different context, in a country which was overrun by a foreign power, Jesus called on his followers to act in an amazing way towards those who had authority over them.
If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. (Matthew 5:41)
Here Jesus was referring to the power which the ordinary Roman soldier had to compel anyone to carry his equipment for one mile. And Jesus was saying that, instead of resenting it, they should be willingly prepared to do so and even go beyond what was expected of them.
This verse occurs in a passage where Jesus is advocating a different way of living (Matthew 5:38-42), a way which seeks to defuse tension, reduce hostility and introduce peace and goodwill. A tall order but one which Jesus develops as he calls on his followers to
love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:44b–45a)
It is in living this way that we emulate and follow the example of God.
Jesus demonstrated this model of generous forgiveness as he was being nailed to his cross and called out to his father to forgive those who were treating him so badly:
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34a)
In this article I am not advocating that the police should be above the law nor that it is right for them to behave as the report to which the Home Secretary refers suggests.
What I am reflecting on is that we will all find ourselves badly treated in many different ways, and by many different people, and it is our responsibility to determine how we will react and respond.
Am I prepared to follow Jesus in the way he calls me to?