God is a God of justice. The foundation of His Throne is righteousness and justice (Psalm 89:14). He is just by nature and He’s practicing justice in the earth (Jeremiah 9:23-24). One of the ways that God upholds and practices justice in the earth is through institutions and agencies designed to enforce His justice. Human government is supposed to establish the law, purge out evil, and ensure that justice reigns (Genesis 1:26-28).
Paul says in Romans 13:1 that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” This means that God has sovereignly placed governing authorities in their positions in society. Since God is just, governments are meant to reflect His just character as they carry out their responsibilities. Because of man’s sinful rebellion against God, these institutions often fail at reflecting His just character.
In order for them to execute their responsibilities, God has granted them the authority and power to do so. The word commonly translated as authority in Romans 13 is exousia. It refers to a delegated power, which is a power that someone gives to a person or group. This means that God is the one who gives the government its authority and power to establish, maintain, and exercise justice. Therefore, they are responsible and accountable to God in how in how they act and do justice (Romans 13:4).
In America, we have created police departments to play part of the role of establishing and executing justice in society. Historically, the police departments in America have failed to uphold God’s standards of justice in how they have carried out this role. When they abuse or misuse their authority and power, then the role of the church is to speak prophetically to the governing authority in order to call them back to a just use of their power. For example, see Isaiah 1:17, Nehemiah 5, David/Nathan, John Baptist, Acts 16.
This is what Jesus did when dealing with Pilate, the Roman Governor. Jesus was on trial for treason, because He claimed to be king (John 19:12). Jesus told him, “I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37). Eventually, Pilate was frustrated when Jesus would not speak to him, so he began to flex his governing power (John 19:10). Jesus replied, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin” (John 19:11). The word in this verse used for power is the same word that Paul uses in Romans 13 that’s translated often as authority.
Jesus was speaking truth to power. He was telling Pilate, the governing authority, that God is the one who gave him the authority and power in the first place. In this subtle yet subversive act, Jesus was reminding Pilate that he was accountable to God, so he was to exercise his authority in a just manner. This is the role of the church in relationship to the government, namely the police department. We must speak truth to power in order to remind them that they’re accountable to God. Though there’s a separation between church and state; there’s no separation between God and state. Through the use of our prophetic voice and witness, we as the church must influence the police department (and other governing authorities) to act in a just manner.