Some of the most painful words ever spoken are, “Shots fired! Officer down!” These words have been heard far too often in recent days. I do not remember a time when those who keep the peace have been the direct targets of assault.

Being a police officer has always been dangerous. I admit to watching a few episodes of “Cops.” How do you not feel fear, as an officer, when you walk up to a car at night, not knowing who or what you will face when you step to the car window? I can think of nothing more troubling than walking into the midst of domestic disputes, and the list of potentially dangerous situations goes on and on. Every day is marked with new ways criminals can exercise their evil. The police are here to protect the rest of us from the violent offenders.

Now, there are evil people, fueled by a toxic rhetoric unleashed toward police, who see the murdering of police officers as revenge for a few officers who have acted badly. In this dark world, just know that every morning when officers hug their spouses and kids, those officers walk out the door not knowing if they will return after their shift. Law enforcement families live with the reality that the next police officer to walk through their door may not be their family member but another officer there to notify them that their husband, wife, dad, or mother has died in the line of duty.

The current murderous assault on law enforcement officers can be described in no less terms as a hate crime—heinous acts of premeditated murder of those who seek to serve us and protect us.

These days call for a response from the people of God. We can be instruments of peace, and can be encouragers and servants of those who risk their lives every day on our behalf. We can show kindness in demonstrative ways that honor and support our police force.

I have no doubt our churches have many people who are creative and can find multiple ways to encourage and show kindness toward our police officers from every level of law enforcement, but let me suggest some ways.

Invite members of law enforcement within your church to invite fellow officers to a special service of prayer for them. Take this opportunity to show kindness to their families, and use this special service to thank officers publicly and personally for their sacrifices.

Personalize your own actions toward law enforcement. Every time you see an officer, say “Thank you.” These two words may seem inadequate, but I assure you, they mean a lot to the officers. Every police officer needs to know that the public supports them and appreciates them. If you have family members or friends in law enforcement, take them to dinner, pray for them, and tell them thanks.

Write letters to your county sheriff’s department and/or police headquarters expressing your concern, prayers and appreciation. The lead officer will find a place for the letter to be posted or shared so the troops can see it. Wouldn’t it be awesome if your church would take a Wednesday evening and write individual cards or letters to law enforcement departments in your area? You could mail them or have a group deliver them.

Now is an important time for us to show our love to these folks. We, as Christian leaders and citizens, should lead the way.

Remember, even though police officers aren’t perfect, the overwhelming majority of police officers are committed, self-sacrificing individuals who run toward trouble, not away from it, in order to protect us.