The past 10 days have been difficult for men and women in emergency services, especially police officers. The tragic death of Sgt. Ryan Russell in Toronto last week shook the policing community to the core, as evidenced in the sea of uniformed humanity that marched through the downtown core to attend Sgt. Russell’s funeral last Tuesday. Including the family and a number of onlookers from the community, some 14,000 people attended that service.
Sgt. Russell did not die in a glamorous, movie-like manner. He reportedly slipped and fell in the snow while attempting to avoid being hit by a snow plow attached to a truck being driven by a deranged individual. Yet in the throes of that, he was attempting to protect the citizens of 52 Division by stopping that truck from doing more damage. Sgt. Russell did not die the way they do in movies, but he died protecting and serving – doing what police officers are trained to do.
His love for policing came naturally, having followed in his father’s footsteps. He understood what was involved in being a cop. He knew that there was always the risk that he would not go home at the end of his shift. That risk, he reasoned, was outweighed by the greater good of serving and protecting the people of the community. Yet he made the supreme sacrifice.
Consider how blessed you are – not only to have such honourable people as Sgt. Russell to protect you from criminals, but to live in a place where you can express your faith, in the vast majority of circumstances, without fear of dying.
You may or may not know that in many countries around the globe, people who express their faith in Christ run the risk of death every day. For instance, some of our sisters and brothers in the Chaldean Church, the oldest religious group in Iraq and the main Christian group, were kept from celebrating Christmas services this past year by their church leaders, out of fear that there would be violence, thanks to Islamic persecution.
It is patently illegal to be Christian in many nations around the world, and in others, where the faith is tolerated formally, it is informally (and quietly) eradicated. Were you in such a position, would you still stand up for Jesus? Would the risk be worth the possibility of death?
As you remember Sgt. Russell, and support his colleagues with gratitude, remember your sisters and brothers in the persecuted church, and pray for them. They are living the risk that we don’t have to…at least, not right now; never, we hope.
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15.13, NLT).