Earlier this week I was working on the message series for December (Advent/Christmas) and as part of that I was watching the funeral for Billy Graham.
If you don’t know a ton about Billy Graham, he was an evangelist (someone who traveled preaching the message of Jesus) and began his public ministry in the 1940’s. He had crusades under tents all over the world and these events would attract hundreds of thousands of people.
He always preached grace, forgiveness, love, and hope.
He is known as the most influential person of Christianity in the 20th century.
Graham’s estimated lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, topped 2 billion by 2008. As a result of his crusades, Graham preached the gospel to more people in person than anyone in the history of Christianity. Graham was on Gallup’s list of most admired men and women a record 61 times.
The celebration of life service was fascinating. Graham’s sister and each of his children spoke. A lifetime influenced by the most influential Christian of the 20th century, can you imagine?
Each person had their own perspective of Graham’s life and message. But one stood out.
His daughter, Ruth.
In her message, she shared openly about how her mistakes were costly in her life, and unfortunately, they were done despite the counsel of her parents. In her second marriage she married someone her mom and dad strongly encouraged her to “give it time and get to know him better.” Yet, she didn’t listen and in her words, “after 24 hours of being married to him I knew I’d made a mistake. I was afraid for my well-being.” Ultimately, she fled.
As she approached her parent’s home atop a mountain outside Asheville, NC, she was filled with anxiety.
Surely, she was in for a “told you so” moment. And was convinced she was an utter disappointment.
As she rounded the final curve to the house, she found her father waiting for her outside.
His only words were, “Welcome home!” And he embraced her.
“My daddy wasn’t God, but in that moment he represented for me the love of God for all people.”
Yesterday I had the privilege to spend some time with a gentleman who has no affiliation with any church and in his words is a “non-practicing spiritualistic Irish-Catholic.” He interacts with hundreds of people, thus brings a unique perspective to our world.
His love of God, Jesus, and others was inspirational. But one statement he made has sat with me and is something I’d encourage us all to wrestle with.
“It seems to me that religion today (Christianity) is an excuse to be able to hate people. To judge them. To create ‘outsiders’ and ‘insiders.’ I don’t think that is what Jesus intended.”
It isn’t. Ruth Graham, the daughter of the most influential Christians in the 20thcentury said the exact same thing.
Do we speak on behalf of a religion of love and acceptance or judgment and hate?
And would others know that is how you believe? (I’m guessing you answered love/acceptance).
If you did answer that way, would others say that about you? Let’s try to make sure that they would!
Something to think about.