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When video first emerged of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the back of George Floyd's neck until he died, I said both in print (see my June 7, 2020, column, "The Line Between Riots and Righteousness") and from the pulpit that it was murder, and I stand by that evaluation. A jury has now determined that to be the case, though what will happen on appeal, especially given Congresswoman Maxine Waters' foolish and incendiary rhetoric and other pressures on the jury aforetime is anyone's guess.

But within minutes of that verdict, a different sort of scene played out in Columbus, Ohio. It was there that a 16-year-old girl named Ma'Khia Bryant was shot and killed by police in order to protect a different young girl she was attacking with a knife. In that case, the officer did exactly what reasonable people would expect him to do, and though any loss of life is a tragedy, this one was utterly justifiable. Because of his heroic actions, the girl at the point of the knife got to go home safely that day, and any loving parent whose child was in that exact same place would hug their child tight and thank God for another day with him or her.

In a touch of utterly heartbreaking irony, just a few hours after that in Cincinnati, Ohio, a 13-year-old girl attacked another 13-year-old girl with a knife. There were no police to intervene, and thus it was that 13-year-old Nyaira Givens lost her life. While the digital ink was still dripping on activist Bree Newsome's tweet justifying and downplaying such situations ("Teenagers have been having fights including fights involving knives for eons. We do not need police to address these situations by showing up to the scene & using a weapon against one of the teenagers. Y'all need help. I mean that sincerely.") a girl was losing her life to that same type of situation. Reading the heartbreaking words of the little girl's father — "I held her. I watched her as she died. I watched her, you know. All I could do was just hold her, hold her" — is world-shattering. (https://www.wlwt.com/article/family-devastated-after-13-year-old-stabbed-by-former-friend-during-fight-dies/36180426#)

But while activists agitate for their particular point of view in all of this, I saw something play out at my church Sunday that could and should be the change agent for all of it.

Scene one began during a time of testimonies when a father of three young children stood and said, "If you had told me five months ago I would be standing here in church with my family praising God, I would have called you a liar. I was a bad man, hooked on drugs, but God changed everything."

Scene two came after the message during the altar call. People always crowd down to the altar to pray in response to what has been preached in our church, and, in this case, that father's children came down to the altar to do so. And he was just a few steps behind them. I got to watch from the pulpit as he placed his arms wide over all of them, kneeling behind them. He prayed over them, pouring out the words of a young, still-learning child of the King, begging God for his children to walk in the right paths.

Scene three was in the fellowship hall afterward as he and their mother played ball with them, laughing and loving on them and correcting them when they got any kind of a bad attitude.

Civil society does not begin in the streets, or in the schools, or in the halls of power; it begins in the home. It begins with fathers and mothers following Christ, staying married and never missing a day of raising and training their children. And as this kind of thing becomes rarer, it will be less and less shocking to find kids being both murderer and victim in our land. I went to a graduation at a small high school, and 13 kids were graduating and being honored. One out of the 13, just one, was being raised in a two-parent home.

I preached to a public high school football team by invitation. I opened my Bible and showed them that they should stay virgins till they were married, then be 100% faithful to their spouse and both of them always be in church together as a family. Many of them literally laughed at what was common practice in previous, more godly generations.

God gave us a pattern that still has power. Ephesians 6:1-4 says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."

Look at the ingredients: Father and mother. Obedience. Honor. Nurture and admonition. The Lord. And the result would be, among other things, "That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." Mind you, sometimes a family can do everything right and still come to youthful tragedy, so I refuse to judge or pontificate on any particular situation of which I do not have full knowledge. But this pattern, set by the Creator, is the surest path to a society where such tragedies are truly rare and utterly shocking rather than a seemingly day-by-day occurrence.

Policing, by nature, is mostly reactive. Real parenting, on the other hand, is proactive. No one should just "have kids." If you produce them, be there 24/7 to raise them and raise them for God. The family unit alone holds the key to a stable and safe society.

Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org.

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