When I was a little boy, I had two answers to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” A preacher, I said, or a police officer. Sometimes I said I would be both. Both aspirations lasted for perhaps as much as a decade of my life.
Neither occupation runs in my family, nor did I have specific childhood idols to entice me toward such seemingly disparate careers. If I had to guess why they both appealed, it was probably my abiding sense of justice. A pastor might offer insight on managing your temper, but a preacher rails against social sins, and a cop, well, a cop catches bad guys.
Growing up an American Evangelical, from time to time I took those “spiritual gifts” inventory tests, strange mixtures of pop psychology and biblical exegesis inspired by Saint Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. The results tended to be consistent: they said I have the gift of prophecy. As a kid, I thought prophecy was about predicting the future, or standing against the Antichrist in the End Times.
But the Old Testament prophets didn’t really do a lot of predicting. Instead, they spoke out against social sins, political sins, the sins of empire, the evils of a regime that turns its back on God and exploits and oppresses the poor and marginalized, a state that perpetuates injustice. The more I read the Old Testament, the more my perspective shifted. A prophetic preacher advocates for the innocent with burning indignation, and a cop, well, a cop catches bad guys.