In the wake of the tragedy that occurred in Charleston, South Carolina, amidst ill-timed statements, absurd pushes for political agendas, and racially charged finger pointing, there is a lesson to be learned: Love and God’s grace can overcome the trials and tribulations of life. A young man named Chris Singleton, a student and athlete at Charleston Southern University, taught us this valuable lesson.
Twenty-four hours after the shooting that left his mother dead, Singleton stood in front of a live camera and delivered a message that shot daggers into the heart of Satan, racists, extremists, and others who seek to divide. He stated, “Love is always stronger than hate. If we just love the way my Mom would, the hate won’t be anywhere close to what love is.” And there it is. In the wake of a horrific act that killed his mother, Chris had the courage to share the truth that is not only the answer to the problem at hand, but also provided the answer to life and how to turn around America. The answer is grace and love, firmly rooted in Christian beliefs.
In Matthew 22:37-39, when the disciples asked Jesus what the “Greatest Commandment” was, he reached back to Deuteronomy and told them, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind . . . [and] you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Our failure as a nation to heed God’s words is why we’re in this situation. It isn’t inanimate objects such as guns, pills, patches, ammo, and social media. The problem rests in our inability to love and our propensity in an ever-expanding nation of secularism to hate.
In response to the shooting, Dr. Ben Carson stated, “Racial based hate is still very much alive as [last Wednesday] night so violently reminds us . . . I fear our intolerance of one another is the new battle ground of evil. Today many feel it is ok to hate someone who thinks different than you do . . . As a brain surgeon I can assure you that all of our brains look the same, no matter what our skin color or party affiliation.” Our world is becoming increasingly hateful toward our neighbors that do not look, act, or think like us. We’ve created an environment where “moderates” don’t exist because they are not tolerated. When evaluating any topic that foments emotion in the United States today, we quickly revert to World War I-like trench warfare, where both sides are dug in, and anything with life in the “no mans zone” is quickly eviscerated.
I experienced this myself when, from 2006-2009, I deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan three times. During this time, I quietly allowed hate to nearly consume my soul, and that hatred culminated in a singular event on October 1, 2009.
During an operation, Ranger team leader, Sergeant Rob Sanchez, stepped on an improvised explosive device. He died instantly, and 7 others lay wounded in various degrees of pain and dismemberment. It was an event that drastically changed my life and proved to be a seminal moment in my future.
For months afterwards, I didn’t want to talk about it; I was angry and I let hate consume my heart. I was angry with myself; that I somehow let this tragedy happen. I was angry with the enemy for emplacing the bomb. I was angry at the world for no good reason.
I felt sorry for myself, and then started looking for answers in all the wrong places. I tried to find the answers in the bottom of a bottle, I put on weight, and I was quickly becoming someone that I didn’t want to be. My marriage suffered because of my selfishness and hateful spirit. Then in January 2010, I found out an old roommate of mine was killed in Afghanistan. I was clawing for answers everywhere except in the foundation that was built during my childhood on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. I missed the answers on the pages of my Bible sitting in corner of the house. Some may label this post-traumatic stress; I call it a life devoid of hope and Christ. It took multiple trips around the world in some of the most austere environments and losing friends and Rangers I loved to realize I couldn’t get through life on my own. I needed a Savior.
I deployed again in the summer of 2010 and found out my other roommate from Alaska was killed in an adjacent province of Afghanistan. I found out from an email labeled “Holbrook Funeral.” I couldn’t get to him in country to say goodbye and I couldn’t go home for the funeral.
I was completely numb; I didn’t know where to turn. Rather than continuing to fall into a tailspin, I started falling back on my foundation and Christian faith. I knew my old roommates, Jason and Paul, would not be proud of the person I had become. I knew Rob would have wanted me to “Ranger on.”
My faith in Christ has always been the source of strength I’ve needed in times of trouble and combat. This is the same strength that Chris Singleton drew from. My recovery was a slow and ongoing process, not an instantaneous wellspring of faith like his. But that’s what sanctification through Christ is all about, becoming more Christ-like as we progress in our faith, no matter how many times we stumble or fall. Although it took me much longer to get to a place where I realized that love really is the answer, most can agree that a much-needed transformation needs to occur in America, and it won’t happen overnight. It’s going to take a long time, it won’t be easy, and there will be a lot of detractors.
As we try to process the “why” of this horrific event, let others spin their wheels trying to make sense of the “labeling” such as whether it was a hate crime, domestic terrorism, or singular act of racism inspired by an extremist website. Just take a look in the mirror and ask yourself questions such as:
“Am I showing love and grace as Christ showed us?”
“Am I living life in a manner that shows love and compassion to others?”
“Am I raising a family that is rooted in love or one that slogs through this secular society and willingly subscribes to it like everyone else?”
“Are the sliding scales of social acceptability in our culture mutating our world into something so backwards that we can’t even recognize ourselves or our identity as a nation anymore?”
“Looking to the future, am I going to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution?”
Let’s look at our own locus of control and do our part to determine how we can improve the world around us and show love to our neighbors, regardless of what their beliefs are, what color skin they have, or what their background is. Our country has a long way to go when it comes to recovering from recent events within our borders.
The Bible offers us words of encouragement as we try to make sense of the mess we have on our hands. Paul encouraged his followers, in 2 Timothy 2:1, to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Furthermore, Peter highlights prioritization in life in 1 Peter 4:8 by stating, “above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” Fervent love is accomplished through effective affection, constant prayer, and hospitality. Internal spiritual healing and a conscious effort to improve the community around us is a start.
A grassroots effort is needed to change the way we view our country and care for our neighbors. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God said, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” Christ showed on the cross that real love goes the distance, will you?
 Victor Luckerson, “Charleston Shooting Victim’s Son Says Love Is Stronger Than Hate,” TIME Magazine, published 19 June 2015, accessed 21 June 2015, http://time.com/3928385/charleston-shooting-victims-son.
 New King James Version.
 Olivia Nuzzi, “‘Crazy’ Ben Carson Is The GOP’s Voice of Sanity on Charleston,” The Daily Beast, published 19 June 2015, accessed 21 June 2015, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/06/19/crazy-ben-carson-is-the-gop-s-voice-of-sanity-on-charleston.html.
 King James Version.