The Chaplain's Notebook


Joshua, Moses’s lieutenant, exhorted, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

In the Psalms, often attributed to King Solomon, we find, “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3–4).

And God said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

The life of a deputy can be incredibly frustrating, especially when you are trying to make a positive difference in the communities you serve. You may find that you run into the same people over and over: people addicted to drugs or alcohol, hard-headed criminals or gang members. Some drug addicts are so high they do not seem to understand a word you say. You try to warn the bad actors that their behaviors may be leading them down a dangerous path, but it feels like you are talking to a brick wall. Even if you hook someone for dope (no longer a felony!), they are back on the street in a couple of hours with a citation for a court date they will likely ignore! Sometimes things can feel a little pointless.

I would like to consider another possibility. Your contact may have been brief, and it may have seemed to lead nowhere, but that is all it took to serve your calling. I believe God places you in positions to give you the opportunity to try to redirect those who need it, whether they listen to you or not. You never know in the moment what impact your words and actions may have in someone’s life. You may have said just the right thing at just the right time, and changed someone’s life for the better. That arrest may be the thing that turns their life around.

Everyone is familiar with the equipment you carry: a gun, taser, OC spray and baton. You have other equipment, however, that is just as (or more) important: verbal guidance, command presence and leading by example. You use this latter set of equipment much more; it speaks most often and most loudly. These tools allow those looking on, passersby and members of the community, to potentially learn from your fine example.

Let us get back to Joshua, the Psalm and God. What do their teachings have in common? I think they teach us that you are indeed a minister of God in a way, whether you know it or not. People you arrest may not like it, but at some level, you are teaching them the law. That is a ministry! It appeals to their “better nature.” Somewhere deep inside, they know you are right. Why else would they run or lie? I believe their fear has something to do with God wanting them to learn they are wrong.

As Eastern philosophy might have it, you deliver karma. You help those in trouble or those who are ill (afflicted). You support victims (in their time of weakness). And, yes, sometimes you rescue the needy. Without doubt, you serve our communities and country. Ironically, you challenge the bad guys to be better, even if they would never admit it! Deputies are, in real ways, God’s ministers of righteousness, justice and peace.

Criminals may be in a revolving-door system. But rest assured that you did your part and being “strong and courageous” is needed to continue the awesome work that you have been called to perform. That is all — and everything — you can do. I pray for your safety and for the well-being of you and yours. I also pray that those you contact might recognize your effort to put them in God’s hands. In this way, you make a difference each and every day in a ministry I would call “being a deputy.”

How can I contact a chaplain? Chaplains are available at their units of assignment or by calling the Psychological Services Bureau (PSB) at (213) 738-3500.