I never met Rev. Billy Graham. I never had the opportunity to observe how he lived or to ask him questions about his theology. And yet, Rev. Graham’s life has had a profound impact on me. I suspect that his death will, too.
I was a young adolescent when I attended one of his crusades. I had already committed my life to Jesus. I was there because I wanted some of my friends to do the same. God, however, had other ideas. I don’t remember anything about what Rev. Graham preached. I just remember that the Spirit of God spoke to me that night in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was time for me to get serious about my commitment to Christ. It was time for me to grow up.
Since that day, Rev. Graham has been something of a spiritual security blanket for me. He was the closest thing that Protestantism had to a pope or an apostle, and he served as something of a divining rod for those who were trying to make their way in a difficult and complicated world. Was he perfect? No. But was he a reliably authentic representative of Christ who served his Lord with integrity while at the same time reaching out to people of various ethnicities, ideologies, and theologies? Absolutely.
Now that he is gone, I feel a bit exposed. That pillar of spiritual strength upon which I (and many others) relied for so long is no longer a part of our lives. But I also feel a heightened sense of responsibility. Almost until his dying breath, Rev. Graham fought for the gospel he loved. He strove with every fiber of his being to bring the good news about the hope that is available in Jesus to every person he could. He did it because he was convinced that the only hope for a broken world was the death and resurrection of Christ, and he called the church to rally around that message of hope.
Now it is my turn—and yours. Will we be people of integrity, bearing witness to the truthfulness and power of the gospel with our words and our lives? Or will we besmirch the name of Jesus with our sin and tarnish the legacy of Rev. Graham with our selfishness? I choose Christ and his gospel. I hope that you will, too.