The Horrible Choice in Dallas

The recent ambush and murder of Dallas (Texas) police officers has been consuming and draining for many of us who live here. David Brown, Dallas’ Chief of Police, has responded incredibly well to an unthinkable horror. During the standoff with the shooter who had already taken the lives of five officers and wounded seven more, plus two civilians, Chief Brown stayed on top of negotiations between the Dallas Police Department (DPD) and the shooter.

But those negotiations only revealed that Micah Johnson, well-protected and heavily armed in a parking garage, remained adamant about his agenda: to hurt and kill as many white people, and white police officers specifically, as he could. In an interview with CNN the next morning, Chief Brown reported that over a two-hour period of negotiations, he characterized the shooter as “basically lying to us, playing games, laughing, singing, asking how many did he get and that he wanted to kill some more, and there were bombs there, so there was no progress on the negotiation.”{1}

Dallas’ mayor Mike Rawlings reported that “We gave him choices. We said, ‘You can come out and not be hurt, or you can stay there and be hurt.’”{2} Mr. Johnson chose to refuse to surrender.

Chief Brown made the difficult decision to end the standoff before any more lives were lost by arming a remote-controlled robot with explosives that killed the shooter.

As this story unfolded, it struck me that Chief Brown, a Christ-follower who worships at Dr. Tony Evans’ church Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, is now peculiarly equipped to understand one of the most difficult aspects of the Old Testament: God’s commands to kill large numbers of people. In fact, just two days after the shootings, I sat in my church answering this very question by a friend who is wrestling with whether God is good. How could a good God order the killing of men, women and children in Canaan? How could a good police chief order the killing of a man holed up in a parking garage?

After hours of negotiation that included 45 minutes of exchanging gunfire with the shooter, Dallas police determined that Micah Johnson had a hard heart. And, in that situation, an apparently unredeemably hard heart that would not allow for a good outcome (which would mean surrender at the least, and confession and repentance eventually for the sin—and the crime—of multiple murders).

God faced something similar on a much, much larger scale: wholesale cultural evil. Genesis 6:5 says, “Yahweh saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” For 120 years Noah served as a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), but only eight people entered the ark to be saved. God wiped out all the evil in every other human being alive on the whole planet. What a horrible, and drastic—but necessary—choice.

Then, we see wholesale cultural evil again in Canaan, the inhabitants of the land that God promised to Abraham and his descendants. The whole culture engaged in idolatry and even child sacrifice. The Canaanites’ rampant sexual sin was so bad it even defiled the land. The Canaanites’ lifestyle was like cultural cancer. And just as an oncology surgeon has to slice into what may appear to be a healthy body to cut out deadly tissue that will kill a person if not removed, God acted to remove spiritual cancer in the pre-flood world and again in Canaan.

We see God’s heart about this revealed in Ezekiel 33:11—”‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’” It broke God’s heart to have to take out the wicked people on the earth. Just as our brother in Christ, Chief Brown knows that Micah Johnson was made in the image of God, and was a soul so dearly loved that Jesus died for him. There is no pleasure in having to deal with a man so insistent on destruction that the only way to keep him from taking more lives is to take his. Chief Brown says it was a good call, but that doesn’t mean it gave him pleasure.

Just as, I believe, our good God stopped the growth of moral cancer on His planet and in His land, but it gave Him no pleasure.

Discipline, especially the most drastic kind, is a horrible choice to have to make. But it is right. And good. Even as it breaks the heart of the discipliner.



This blog post originally appeared at on July 12, 2016.