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A Light without Boundaries

We are back in Ordinary Time, the season after Epiphany when we are called to grow and spread the Light of Christ without letting anything get in the way. At this time, I would like to introduce you to Will Campbell, a Baptist pastor who embodied this belief with his whole being.


I have to use the past tense because Will lived from 1924 to 2013. Raised in Mississippi as the son of a cotton farmer, “Brother Will” grew up surrounded by bigotry and racism. But as an adult, he joined the civil rights movement and became a trusted member of its inner circle. Will was the only white person at the founding of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference at Ebenezer Baptist Church. He helped escort Black students through the angry crowds at Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. After Dr. King’s assassination, Will was the only white man grieving in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel. People say his fingerprints were everywhere on the civil rights movement—even on those violently opposed to it.


You see, Will Campbell was also a pastor to the Ku Klux Klan, even though he disdained what they did. When a grand dragon of the Klan was indicted and tried, he helped raise money to pay the man’s lawyers. He was with the man on the night he was arrested. He checked in on the man’s family, and he visited him in prison. Will did these things because he was all about breaking down barriers in American society. His famous line was “If you’re gonna love one, you’ve got to love ’em all.” Hate was the enemy, not the people. The same Scripture that directed him to support the civil rights movement also directed him to believe that all people are God’s people. He wanted them all to know God’s love.


By living as a “light without boundaries,” Will Campbell held nothing back. He changed lives and hearts by accepting people as they were, building their trust, and never wavering from who he was—a follower of Jesus. His legacy shows us that we don’t have to agree with each other, but we can accept each other as we are. Through acceptance, you can open a crack in a relationship through which your light can enter. Once the light gets in and you hold that space for God, miracles can happen. In this new year, may your light stretch in ways that astound you.

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