My favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quote is the profound truth that, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Woodlawn is the powerful true story of how a high school football team decided to embrace the love of Christ and drive racism and hatred out of their football team, school, and city. Birmingham in 1970 was a powder keg of violence and hatred. White supremacists had murdered four African-American children at the 16th Street Baptist Church just seven years earlier. Racism, violent attacks, and tensions ran high.
Woodlawn High School football coach Tandy Gerelds tried to channel the anger of his team over the attacks to unify black and white players on the gridiron. But his attempt failed with player infighting occurring on and off the field. As the situation deteriorated, sports chaplain Hank Erwin asked Coach Gerelds to speak to the Woodlawn football team. Geralds agreed, and Erwin called on the players to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ. To Gereld’s shock, almost the entire team committed their lives to following Christ.
The Woodlawn football team experienced a spiritual transformation that spread to the school, rival cross-town football team, and the entire city. Bethany and I enjoyed watching Woodlawn again with our children a few days ago, and it’s such a powerful story of forgiveness, hope, and love.
Jesus is Love made visible, and He shows us the better way to live. He is the One who gives us power to overcome hatred with love and forgiveness. He overcame the entire world’s hatred with immeasurable love and forgiveness on the cross.
Here’s a preview of Woodlawn. If you haven’t watched it, you can rent or purchase it on Amazon.