"Pray, don't find fault with the man that limps, or stumbles along the road, unless you have worn the moccasins he wears, or stumbled beneath the same load." (Mary T. Lathrap, "Judge Softly")
"Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them, and you have their shoes." (Jack Handey)
There are many variations on that old phrase, some serious, some facetious. But if I may offer a new version of it based on current events
"Before you find fault with the police, pull on the uniform and badge and do a week of night shifts."
The current NFL season is upon us once again, and for the third year in a row the conversation will be somewhat dominated by talk of players kneeling and protesting during the national anthem. This goes back as far as August of 2016 when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was photographed on the field wearing socks depicting police officers as pigs.
The players who have followed him into this sustained protest have stated on multiple occasions that their purpose is to bring attention to police brutality against minorities.
I have loved NFL football since I was a child. Sunday was always the happiest day of the week for me both because of church and because my Dolphins would be beating up on the hapless Colts or Patriots. Yet I have not watched any football for the past two years and likely will skip it this year also because it has become a bitter political brouhaha rather than a pleasant diversion from the stress of the week.
If there was a solution, I would love to see it be implemented. But maybe there is.
Galatians 6:2 says, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
That is much akin to the Mary Lathrap sentiment of "walking a mile in another man's moccasins." When we take it upon ourselves to truly shoulder the burden of others, it changes both them and us.
For full disclosure, I am absolutely pro-law enforcement. One of my dear friends was an officer for many years until he was gunned down in the line of duty by a criminal with a rap sheet as long as my arm. He left behind a wife and daughter.
I understand full well that there always have been and always will be bad cops out there, even officers that harbor deep racism in their hearts. But with over 1 million officers in the United States, how could that not be true? Take any group at all of 1 million or more, and I do not care if they are Girl Scouts, candy stripers, doctors, preachers, teachers or nuns, and you will surely find very bad apples among them. Those bad apples in every field and at every level should be dealt with.
But police officers, by and large, are the most unjustly maligned group of people in our land. They risk their lives each and every day to protect people who bitterly hate them, and they do so for pitifully small salaries. Then they turn on the TV each Sunday and see multimillionaires who play a game for a living protesting their existence.
So here is my proposed solution. For one week's time, have all 911 calls routed to the homes of NFL players, and compel them to respond. The next time a woman calls 911 screaming that her husband has a gun to her head, have a quarterback get out of bed and go to that home to handle it.
And then let him handle the fallout from the fact that if he lives through that volatile situation, no matter how he handles it, he is going to get ripped to shreds afterward by someone.
When the call comes in to 911 that there have been shots fired in a neighborhood and the suspect is a young African-American male, send a wide receiver to deal with it. Let him worry all the way there about being shot and killed, while at the same time thinking about the current racial tension in America and the fact that his life will forever be ruined if he has to shoot the suspect, and he will never escape the labels that will be applied to him.
When the call comes in to 911 that a store is being robbed, send an offensive lineman. Let him feel the fear of having to draw a gun and go into that store and confront a desperate criminal, while also fearing the lifelong nightmares he will have if a fire fight breaks out and he accidentally shoots a child.
Of course I'm not serious about these suggestions. I would never ask any untrained person to put themselves in harm's way. But I am very serious about asking everyone who despises the police to, at least in their own minds, "bear their burdens" for a while as Paul the Apostle said. Mentally slide into that uniform, clip on the badge, strap on the gun and wade into hell day after day and night after night, all while being called epithets like "racist" and "fascist." I think the blisters one would get from walking in those shoes may make them much slower to hate a million good men and women of all races over the abhorrent actions of a few.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.