Final Reflections on America’s Pastor, Billy Graham
Billy Graham, America’s Pastor, passed away three weeks ago. He received unprecedented civilian honors, and he deserved it. A man who had nearly reached a century for his time on this earth, Graham worked with Presidents on both sides of aisle, as well as men and women of grand and low estate. His efforts to combat racism and segregation are duly noted and honored.
It was frustrating and sad that the media selected a few clips from private conversations he had shared with President Richard Nixon, including some unjust snipes at Jewish people. Those were private remarks which no doubt Graham never supported or enabled in his public life, and even when they went public nearly 20 years ago, Graham dutifully apologized and moved on to greater opportunities and victories in witnessing. America’s Pastor was not afraid to stand out for Christ Jesus, and he was not afraid to admit that he made mistakes. In his connections and conversations with political figures, he had to learn that they sought to use him rather than learn from him. Nixon was the hardest lesson he learned. Nixon was power-hungry and used Graham’s popularity for his own venal ambitions.
In spite of these small setbacks, Billy Graham recognized that he was a human being, once a sinner now a saint saved by grace. Many pastors fall from grace because they rest in their own power rather than trusting in the Lord for all things. How else could a man have launched crusades across the globe for decades? Such strength and commitment is supernatural.
Graham’s legacy continues to amaze through his son Franklin, a powerhouse of faith and fervor. His passion for this country and its Judeo-Christian ethic is beyond astounding. Franklin Graham had a troubled past, too, but broke through a life of drug addiction of loss to become a powerful preacher and witness for Jesus. Thank God that He uses people who aren’t perfect, but rather seeks to work through those who have been perfected in their conscience towards God (Hebrews 10:14)
Three week past Graham’s passing, there were diverse opinions about his passage from death to life to death again. The Washington Post “conservative” columnist George Will’s diatribe against the pastor was not surprising, but certainly disappointing. Will used to describe himself as agnostic, since he didn’t have the intellectual fortitude to be an atheist. Now he has jumped fully into folly and acknowledges that there is no God to acknowledge.
The Scriptures have a ready response for such heady nonsense:
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” (Psalm 14:1)
It’s very difficult to take a limited government conservative seriously who does not honor The Deity or any form of Providence. What is left in a world without God but a war of all against all, and the stronger always win over the weaker? The rise of government control over individual liberty and sovereignty is inevitable where no God is acknowledged. Look at former and current communist states for proof.
What else about Will’s anti-Graham polemic was wrong? He disdained that Graham was not a prophet because they take “adversarial stances toward their times, as did the 20th century’s two greatest religious leaders, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul II. Graham did not. Partly for that reason, his country showered him with honors.”
I could not disagree more. There is nothing more officious to any leader, to any government than to hear that there is a great Leader who whose shoulder rests the government of this universe (Isaiah 9:6). Millions of people around the world were desperate to hear Good News. No one should be shocked. Graham also had his detractors. I saw them personally when I attended his last crusade in Pasadena 2004.
For me, however, the biggest problem I have with Billy Graham is that he did not portray a Savior who saves us every day. We never learned about the High Priesthood of Christ Jesus, who ministers on our behalf after the power of an endless life (Hebrews 7:16). Many Christians struggle through this life because they know about Jesus as the Savior who takes us from spiritual death into life. But what about the day-to-day life that I live on this earth still?
The other formulation, perhaps one he used to make the most sense to his audiences, was flawed. Graham would routinely exhort listeners: “Give your life to Christ.” That invitation is not Biblically accurate. When Adam and Eve sinned, they died. Jesus did not come to give Himself as an option for living better.
Jesus spoke very clearly on this matter:
“I have come that you might have life, and that more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Man needs forgiveness of sins–and of sin, but He also needs life, a recognition that apart from Jesus, none of us can accomplish anything (John 15:5). This is one of the most neglected revelations in Christendom today, along with the full promises accorded to us in the New Covenant as well as Christ’s High Priesthood.
Granted, Billy Graham was an Evangelist, as much as other members of the Body of Christ are also called to be apostles, prophets, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). Still, evangelism will be more effective the more that adherents recognize that man has a two-fold problem: He is dead in trespasses. The “Dead” part must be brought to light so that all men can enjoy Jesus’ everlasting life (John 3:16) and the glory of reigning in His life even here on earth (Romans 5:17)
With that, I will close by saying that there was no greater communicator for the faith than Billy Graham, and let us hope that more people will rise up to share the Good News of Jesus Christ before His Coming.
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