Today I would like to quickly address a practice that is becoming quite prevalent among prominent pastors (in my city, at least). It is the practice of employing off-duty police officers to act as personal bodyguards.
Now, I do not intend to come off like one of those TR watchbloggers who can quote a million scriptures to show that Rick Warren is the Antichrist or that churches with praise bands and Powerpoints are of the devil. This is not that kind of blog, and that is not the piece I am going to write.
In this day and age, it is a very sensible thing for a well-known pastor to have a police entourage. There are lots of crazies running around out there, of whom yours truly is at or near the top of the list. Some of these crazies stalk famous people for their own twisted reasons, and some would like nothing better than to get their moment of fame by knocking off somebody famous. A celebrity pastor is a very large and inviting target. On a more serious note, some well-known pastors are involved in ministry in areas of the world where hostility toward the Christian faith runs very high, and this places them in frequent and real danger.
Consider this story from the Old Testament, tucked away in the book of Ezra. The Persians had just defeated the Babylonians and allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple. Despite opposition from some uncooperative elements in the Persian government, the project was eventually completed. Ezra, a Jew who served as a high-ranking official in the Persian court, was given leave to return to Jerusalem along with all of the silver and gold articles used in Temple worship, which the Babylonians had confiscated during their conquest of Jerusalem.
Now there was just one problem involved in transporting all this gold and silver back to Jerusalem: about 500 miles of desert between Babylon and Jerusalem. All that empty space made a perfect hiding place for bandits, because no law enforcement agency could possibly hope to cover all that space. The volume of silver and gold to be transported was north of 800 talents, an amount worth several million dollars in today’s money. This, of necessity, would require a ginormous caravan, which could not possibly hope to travel secretly through the desert. If word got out that such a caravan was leaving Babylon, bandits would have descended instantly upon it and seized everything of value long before it ever reached Jerusalem.
Ezra would have been wise to request assistance from the king of Persia in transporting all of this valuable cargo across the desert. As a matter of fact, he would have been crazy not to. All indications are that the king was ready to provide Ezra with soldiers and horsemen for protection if he requested it. But he didn’t. Verse 22 of chapter 8 (NIV): “I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king: “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” ” Sure enough, God was gracious and all of the gold and silver made it to Jerusalem without mishap.
Again, I am not here to say that police bodyguards are unbiblical or that prominent pastors who have police entourages are false teachers leading the flock towards damnation. I am not [insert name of your favorite TR watchblogger here].
Imagine if there was a well-known pastor out there somewhere who had the kind of faith that Ezra showed in this story. Someone who would be willing to step out and say “I know that having police bodyguards is a wise precaution for a person in my position, but I believe that God is gracious to all who look to him. I know the risks here, but God is bigger than all of them.”
Imagine what it would do for the Christian movement to see that kind of faith in our world today.