What A Regret From Billy Graham Can Teach Us

What A Regret From Billy Graham Can Teach Us

Evangelist Billy Graham died February 21.  I want to share two quotes from him- an affirmation of his deep faith and central mission in life, and then a regret.

First, his faith: In his last sermon in 2013 he said, “Our country's in great need of a spiritual awakening….I want to tell people about the meaning of the cross….the real cross of Christ….With all my heart I want to leave you with the truth, that he loves you, and is willing to forgive you of all your sins…There is no other way of salvation except through the cross of Christ….Today, I’m asking you to put your trust in Christ.”

Now the regret: In 2011 Sarah Pulliam Bailey asked Dr. Graham: “If you could, would you go back and do anything differently?” He answered: “I would have steered clear of politics. I’m grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places….But looking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn’t do that now.” Billy Graham vigorously proclaimed Christ, and he largely avoided getting embroiled in politics, but he wished he had avoided politics even more.

Every day on the news and over the internet, we see that the people of our country are hotly divided—you guessed it, by politics. But what truly astounds me is that instead of acting differently, we Christians let ourselves be divided by these same issues. We should model something better.

I am saddened to read the things some Christians emphasize on social media! I see some sharing in a divisive way their views about immigration, kneeling for the national anthem, war and peace, taxes, guns, and healthcare. It breaks my heart because, while important, these are penultimate issues, and they are the issues of the world. They are things about which many Christians sincerely disagree, and above all they are passing away!  No matter how important such issues might be, no one is saved by being on one side or the other of them! As Billy Graham would remind us, only Jesus saves!

In feeling this way, I am in the minority. Many on one side of the spectrum seem convinced that God Himself has a particular position on immigration, peace, taxes, guns, and healthcare. And guess what? God agrees with them! Equally bothersome to me, many on the other side believe that God has the exact opposite stance on all these issues.

This makes me feel ill.  Why, Christian, would you share your political opinion on Facebook or Twitter or with a bumper sticker in a way that might cause to stumble someone for whom Christ died? Do you really want them, like Peter, to take their eyes off of Jesus and to sink beneath the waves? Do you really think anyone is going to be saved by agreeing with your politics? And do you yourself want to take your eyes off of Jesus and risk sinking?

Many will dismiss what I write as terribly naïve and hopelessly other-worldly. But I do not write out of complete ignorance. I majored in political science, studied it an extra year at a university overseas, worked in politics my first two jobs, and then went to law school for a year. By the time I came back to Jesus, and went to seminary, I had come to see that politics is not at the center of the gospel, and I have not changed my mind.  
I am tired of Christians so shrilly and publicly talking politics. I believe we can learn from Billy Graham who was apolitical most of the time, but who in old age wished he had “steered clear of politics” even more. I believe many followers of Jesus are selling our central calling in Christ (to be evangelists) for a mess of the world’s pottage, and that like Esau, we will live to regret it.

This column also appears in the Pearland and Friendswood Reporter News.


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