A sweet little red-haired girl I know recently asked her mother a very difficult question. It wasn’t an academically difficult question like “Why can flies walk on the ceiling,” the kind many parents fear will embarrassingly expose their lack of scientific knowledge. Nor was it difficult in the “I’m not ready for this conversation yet” sense, found in questions like “Where do babies come from?” No, this little girl asked her mother a spiritually difficult question. She asked, “Why do bad people want to kill my daddy?”
You see, that girl’s father is a police officer, and she knows what her daddy does every day. He goes to work to help people, keep them safe, and stop criminals from hurting us. While I’d imagine this little girl has always understood that there are bad people who want to run away from her father when he’s trying to catch them, she’s picked up on a new, more aggressive form of evil in the air, manifested recently in Dallas and in Baton Rouge. She’s learned there are people who have never even met her father but who want to take his life and the lives of other police officers. So, when all her daddy wants to do is help people, why do some people hate him? Why do bad people want to kill her daddy?
How does a mother answer a question like this? How do you even begin to explain the depths of this evil to a child who just finished first grade? I can only imagine that, in recent days, many children have asked their parents to help them make sense of all this.
So, for the sake of that sweet little-red haired girl’s parents, and for any other parents needing some help answering a rather difficult spiritual question, here is how I would explain things to my own young children and to the young children of my congregation.
Little One, Let Me Explain
Everyone in the world needs to be at peace with God. Even if people say they don’t believe in God, this need is something we all experience one way or another. Just as we all need to know that our earthly fathers love us, we all need to know that our Father in heaven loves us, even if we don’t know or understand who that Father is.
In the words of the Bible, that Father tells us he loves us. In the Bible, God tells us we have his love because Jesus took away all our sins when he died on the cross and rose from the grave. In the Bible, God tell us Jesus has given us everything we need to be his Father’s children and to live with him forever.
But the devil doesn’t want us to be at peace with God, and so the devil tries to get us to believe the opposite of what God says in the Bible. The devil wants us to believe it didn’t do us any good when Jesus died on the cross. The devil wants us to believe God won’t stop being angry at our sins until we do something to take his anger away and make him love us. Sometimes the devil convinces people that the best way to make God love them is to hurt other people, including police officers who are only trying to help people.
Even though most police officers are good people, sometimes bad police officers do things they shouldn’t do—hurt people, harass people, sometimes even shoot people when they don’t have to. When people see this happen to their friends or their family, it makes them angry, especially if those bad police officers don’t get punished.
Likewise, sometimes people think police officers treat them unfairly just because they have the same color skin or dress the same way as other people who have broken the law. In moments like this, it’s okay for people to tell those in their government or their country they think they’re being treated unfairly, as long as they remember that God commands us to forgive the people who have wronged us, just as he forgave us in Christ. But when people won’t listen to God and hold onto their anger at bad cops, the devil often convinces some of those angry people that what God actually wants is for them to hate all cops, even the good ones who are trying to help them.
We’re Broken in So Many Ways, Baby
Likewise, when people make sinful decisions in their lives, they often want to blame others for the results. When they can’t get good jobs or when people think poorly of them because they’ve gone to jail for selling drugs or stealing things, they want to blame the police officers who caught them instead of blaming themselves for doing things that were wrong, especially if they see that people with a different skin color or who have more money don’t get punished as harshly as they do.
When this happens, God tells them they should accept the punishment they deserve and be at peace knowing they won’t be punished for those sins in heaven. But sometimes the devil convinces a handful of these angry individuals that God never said any of this, that God hates the same people they hate, and that in order to buy God’s love, they must hurt the kind of people who were only trying to protect their neighbors.
Other times, especially with men, when their fathers abandon them or when something prevents their brains from working the right way, they have a hard time knowing what it means to be a man. They have a hard time believing God when he says that being a man is all about protecting people, laying down your life in service of your wife and your children, and doing the kinds of things that good police officers do every day.
In their weakness and confusion, sometimes the devil convinces a few of these men that being a man is all about hating people who have power over them, and that God will love them if they do anything to take that power for themselves, including taking the lives of good, faithful police officers who obey the law, treat people with honor, and love their families more than anything in this world.
We all need to know that God loves us. And God has told us that he does. But because a few people have believed the devil’s lies, they’ve become convinced the only way to win the love of God is by hating their neighbor, believing untrue things about police officers to fuel that hatred, suggesting that police officers get what they deserve when people murder them, shouting that they want the world to be filled with dead cops, and even by firing their guns at the very men who have sworn to protect and defend them.
Even if these people say they want to take the lives of law enforcement because of racism or police brutality, the real reason for their bloodlust is that they don’t believe God when he tells them that Jesus has already won for them the love that can’t be purchased by anyone’s blood but his own.
Pray for Those Who Persecute You
So where do parents go from there? Once our children know why people want to do evil, how do we comfort them in response to that evil? The answer is the same as it always has been. We go to church and we hear how Christ crushed the devil’s skull with his nail-pierced foot at Calvary, promising us that we never need to believe a word that wicked foe ever speaks because the love of God is already our eternal possession.
We point our children to the baptismal font and promise them we never need to believe the lies of the devil because, in those waters, we were covered in all the righteousness that God requires to call us his children and enter his kingdom. We read our Bibles every day, and we watch Jesus’s word of peace take away the anger Satan has used to corrupt so many. We fold our hands every night, praying not only that God would deliver us from the evil one, but that he would also deliver those who are currently stuck in Satan’s jaws.
We pray that God would end all threats of violence by replacing hatred with love in the hearts of those who are breathing out murderous threats towards police officers or anyone else. As long as sinners continue to hunger for the death of those who protect and serve, we pray God would send his holy angels to protect each and every one of those officers, that he may bless them all to get home safely every night, to take their sweet little red-haired daughters in their arms, and to know that they can be at peace with each other because Jesus has given them peace with God.