One of the many controversial aspects of American Sniper was Chris Kyle’s father’s brief speech about sheep (people living their lives in a state of vulnerability), wolves (those who prey on the vulnerable), and sheepdogs (those who protect the vulnerable). For Kyle’s father, and for many of us, the question goes to one of core identity. How do you choose to live?
I first heard the “sheepdog” speech almost 20 years ago, when my mentor in the practice of law (a Marine captain) told it to me over lunch when I was barely out of law school. I thought of it again when I saw this story, which is racing across social media, of a West Virginia pharmacist confronting an armed robber.
Facing an armed robber in a store full of co-workers and customers, a concealed carry permit-holding pharmacist, Don Radcliff, reacted within seconds, firing precisely and accurately to kill the robber while leaving everyone else in the store unharmed. The video shows the entire encounter clearly, and I’m frankly stunned at the speed of the pharmacist’s reaction.
As I’ve said many times, in the real world evil often leaves us with few truly good options. Some will say that Mr. Radcliff should have held fire, handed over the money, and prayed the man had no true murderous intent. I say that his best option was not to place his colleagues and customers lives in that armed felon’s hands.
Mr. Radcliff no doubt wishes he never had to kill another human being. His wife understandably characterized the day as “incredibly emotional,” and said they’re “still trying to process what happened.”
Mr. Radcliff, however, has found solace in a remarkable daily devotional:
“Thursday, February 19th, John 10, 7 to 18, ‘A thief comes only to steal and to kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.’ That’s verse 10,” Radcliff said. “Abundance isn’t God’s provision for me to live in luxury; it’s his provision for me to help others live.” Radcliff said it is exactly what he needed to hear. “So many times when I read this daily devotional it’s exactly what I need to hear. And today it was what I needed to hear,” Radcliff said.
Defending others is an act of courageous compassion. In deciding to live as one who protects others, you’re not choosing to live a violent or bloodthirsty life. Rather, you’ll in all likelihood live at peace, but it’s a prepared peace. Don Radcliff was prepared.