Will Campbell was born into a farming family in Mississippi, under the shadow of the Ku Klux Klan. Ordained at 17 in his Baptist church, he began to sense that God was asking him to take a difficult, controversial direction in life. Being a white man who supported and worked for civil rights in the deep South was dangerous. He received death threats and was cautioned to stay away from his hometown. He did except for the time he just had to return. His 12 year-old nephew was struck and killed riding the bicycle that his Uncle Will had given him. Following a long-held tradition called sitting up with the dead, Will Campbell sat at the funeral home late into the night. Around 3:00 that morning, someone approached out of the dim light and handed Will a cup of coffee. It was Will’s uncle, a man he hadn’t seen in many years … a man who vehemently disagreed with Will’s activism. Looking back on that experience, Campbell wrote: “Until the dawn, I sat in the redemptive company of a racist Jesus.”
I think I know what he meant. Grace wins. On this day when we try to make sense of the racial divide that still exists in our country, we need grace more than ever.