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Proverbs 4:23 – “Keep diligent watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.” (The Message Bible)

Every time I try to move away from writing about the continuing escalation of violence and murders in our city, God brings me right back to this topic. My prophetic voice will not allow me to remain silent. 

Over the past 20 years, Indianapolis has steadily evolved into a dangerous place to live. While there are both documented and purported “high crime areas,” no place in Indy or the surrounding suburbs appears to be safe. Violent crimes and murders happen everywhere and affecting all of us, especially our most vulnerable: our children.

I do not need to recount all the grim statistics related to violent crime and murders in our city. For the past four years we have surpassed the previous year in homicides. That fact alone is enough to alarm any well-meaning citizen and cause concern for one’s safety and the safety of our families and neighbors.

If you talk to those of us on the front line (pastors, politicians, police and other law enforcement agencies, teachers, social workers, counselors and mentors), you will get a myriad of responses as to why our city has become increasingly violent. Practitioners may have different positions on the causes and solutions, but none of us can deny the existence of violence and its effects on our community. 

We are burying our sons and daughters before their lives even begin due to gun violence and a lack of meaningful conflict resolution techniques being utilized amongst those battling each other. Families are being ripped apart. Children must grow up without fathers and mothers. And sadly, the violence often occurs between family members, occurrences that make these types of tragedies even more devastating.

What is the root cause of this spirit of murder and violence that continues to hover over our city? How should this cause be addressed? What tangible solutions must be deployed if we desire to ever see our city as a place of peace and tranquility?

I believe we are dealing with a condition of the heart. Proverbs 4:23 admonishes the reader to “Keep vigilant watch over your heart …” The writer, widely accepted as King Solomon, understood how a vigilant watch over our heart is the difference between good and evil, morality and immorality, faith and unbelief, hope and hopelessness, joy and pain, violence and nonviolence, and life and death.

Solomon explains to us why we must “Keep vigilant watch over our hearts …” Simply but profoundly stated: “… because that’s where life starts.” The heart is comprised of the three components: heart, mind and soul. Life begins in the heart. How we think begins in the heart. Our actions begin in the heart. The issues of life flow from the heart.

How do we legislate morality? How do we program away violence and murder?Truth is we can’t. If we could we would have done it by now. At best, we can work to instill the critical values of self-respect and respect for others, with an emphasis on respect for human life. 

These lessons must begin at birth and flow intentionally into our formative years and beyond.At some point we must realize that the devastating loss of life through senseless violence is a condition of the heart. It permeates from a place of anger, despair, and hopelessness.

It is a condition of the heart and until hearts are changed, the bloodshed will continue.

Dr. Preston T. Adams III is senior pastor at Amazing Grace Christian Church in Indianapolis. Contact Pastor Adams via email at seniorpastor@agccindy.org or via Twitter @DrPrestonTAdams. For more information, visit agccindy.org.

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