Today I attended the visitation of a police officer who was killed in the line of duty. It was a somber experience, and one that I did not take lightly...and I could get on this blog and turn this into a political statement, and ramp up the public outcry for violence against police - but that is not what this is about. No; I wanted to comment on the amazing camaraderie I felt and was able to actually share in today, despite the loss of a person with which I had only had brief encounters. My hometown police department lost one of their comrades, and as I went to just represent our police department, the show of devotion and brotherhood from agencies all around was astounding. This display of brotherhood and camaraderie will be even more pronounced tomorrow at the funeral, but I knew I would be unable to attend. But the visitation to me was still special. You could tell that any one of those men or women there would have taken a bullet for anyone else there if evil had lurked about, the way it was lurking around a corner for the officer who was being honored. Nevertheless, it felt good to be part of something made up of so many, yet so many in which I had something in common. And that feeling of acceptance among Greenville City, Greer City, Columbia City - Chicago PD, and even the universally recognized NYPD was such a fulfilling experience of unity and remembrance. So of course, these emotions made me think. Now some may call this the 'mob' mentality...just wanting to be part of the gang. But I think it goes so much deeper. Why do gang members want so bad to become gang members, despite the knowledge going in that they may have to get beat up, tortured, and even have to inflict such injury or even death on another individual? Because they have this longing to belong that usually isn't getting met at home, and usually, that yearning to belong has been there since they were very young, but the need was never met. Why do soldiers ever want to be soldiers in the first place? Because that inner voice that tells them to join up or find something bigger than themselves is louder to them than it is for others. They will sign the dotted line, give their life to Uncle Sam, and know that they still have to endure drill sergeants, push-ups, hazing, and lots of running. Why did Italian or Irish Americans in the big cities not too long ago want to become part of La Cosa Nostra, or the mob? Because they wanted to be a part of something where everyone KNEW they were a part of something, and they would be feared, and respected. They knew the risks going in; they saw the mobsters from the past come and go (and vanish), and yet their longing to belong to 'this thing of ours' overpowered whatever doubts they had. Why do Muslims join groups like Al Queda, or ISIS? Besides their truly radical doctrine brought about by Muhammad himself - they all want to become part of something bigger...even though they are pretty much told to submit or die! But nevertheless, they still want to belong. Why do you join any kind of organization? Is it because you find unity with whatever causes that organization represents? Why is this important to you? It is my opinion that God designed us this way...that he wants us to long to be part of something bigger, with one great cause. Jesus told the first two disciples he encountered to drop their fishing nets and follow Him...and what did they do? They started up their very own gang! But that cause that united them - was a cause that would change the course of history forever. If they hadn't decided to follow Jesus, I'm sure Jesus would have moved on to others who would follow Him - but they joined up and even helped start something bigger. Here's the thing...Jesus told each and every one of us to love our neighbor. He referred to people with terms like brother, or sister. He filled people with hope with His wonders, and they wanted to follow Him. And the bigger crowds got, the more people wanted to join in the crowd. And Jesus told the disciples before He physically left them for the last time - Go, and make disciples of ALL NATIONS! That means all of us. So although my brothers and sisters in blue tend to be known for our Us vs Them mentality - Jesus wanted to include ALL OF US. So although gang members will attack anyone not wearing their colors, but embrace all of those WITH their colors - Jesus wanted to include ALL OF US. If you long to belong to something bigger than yourself, and you don't want to have to pick up a gun to do so, it's easier than you think. The answer can be found in the most influential book in history. Pick up a Bible, and find the verse John 3:16. I invite you to read the words over and over. Pay attention to the words "The world"...and "Whosoever"...because really and truly - God loves ALL OF US.
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