One of the issues confronting the modern world is the issue of crime, and in particular youth crime and gang violence. This problem is not new and the solution is not new, but we are now faced with a major surge in crime. The question is what action can we take now and what results can we expect to see in the short and long term?
We know what the cause of crime are. Numerous research papers have revealed the following as major contributors:
• Fractured families.
• Social instability.
• Societal corruption.
• Negative media and role models.
All of these are contributors but the main contributor to crime is what I call a “heart” issue. Jesus made a statement where he said whatever is in the heart of a man will come out of his mouth. The implication is that your character and values will eventually be spoken and if spoken eventually acted upon. You may say this is a simple answer but I am speaking from 30 years of experience on the ground with youth, gangs and another 20 years as a street veteran.
There are many things we need in our society to combat crime – and things such as jobs, family structure and social stability are certainly helpful – but what I have found in my years of experience is that nothing has a more powerful effect than a change of heart. I have given pep talks, helped young people find jobs and done all the wonderful things that are supposed to help young people make a change, but the one thing that has produced more impact than all others is when a young person makes a spiritual, moral and values shift.
I have seen young men and women who are violent, promiscuous, drug addicted, and in violent gangs make a dramatic shift when presented with the gospel. I am not speaking for everyone, and I am not telling anyone what to do. I am just delivering facts from my experience. This was my path to freedom and the path of countless young men who I have worked with. I was on the streets in the world of crime, violence, promiscuity, alcohol and drugs and one encounter shifted my entire life. What is also interesting is that of all the friends that I grew up with, only the ones who made the choice that I made became truly successful.
I could write a long list of people who are dead, in prison or addicted who I was associated with. When I began to work with gang members and street youth in The Bahamas the same scenario was repeated. Most of the ones who left the life of crime and the streets were the ones who made a commitment to Christ. The statistics are startling and dramatic. Young men from broken families, addicted parents, broken, and the victims of low expectations suddenly reversed course and became husbands, fathers, leaders and role models through one thing.
In our quest for crime solutions, we must do everything possible. But I believe if we are smart as a people we should not underestimate or ignore something that has statistically proven to be effective and not just marginally effective, but dramatically effective.
What is on the inside of the man trumps all of the external circumstances. The most important tool in crime fighting is addressing the spiritual, moral and values of our young people complemented by jobs and all the other factors mentioned previously. I am willing to compare notes and provide the names and faces and compare because I know what I speak of and I speak what I know of. We need law enforcement, jobs and all the others components but the one component that trumps all is the “heart” component.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to email@example.com. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.