The last two weeks have been filled with the news of Billy Graham’s death…or more appropriately, his grand entrance into eternity with his Savior.
When I first learned of his death, I was preparing to attend the funeral of a college friend of mine, a man who left this life way too soon but most certainly heard the same greeting as Billy Graham: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
My life has been incredibly hectic. My younger son turned 16 and I took a day off to spend with him, to take him to get his drivers license. It’s the climax of his FFA livestock showing season (which morphs directly into livestock judging season). My oldest son has been interviewing for scholarships at my alma mater. We also spent a day driving to Dallas for a surgical consultation. My husband and I were out of town for two straight weeks. After one very hectic week at home, he’s now off again on another business trip.
As much as I would like to reflect on the life of Billy Graham (or anything, for that matter), I simply haven’t been able to spend that much time diving into the impact he had on this country, this world. However, I came across a very interesting passage by George Bush about the impact Graham had on his own life.
The younger Bush tells the story of a conversation he had with his mother, Barbara Bush. Let me simply quote the story:
“Eventually we got to talking about religion and who gets to go to heaven. I made the point that the New Testament says clearly that to get to heaven, one must believe in Christ. Mother asked about the devout who don’t believe in Jesus but do God’s work by serving others. She then took advantage of one of the benefits of being first lady. She picked up the phone and asked the White House operator to call Reverend Graham.
“It wasn’t long before his reassuring Southern voice was on the line. He told us, as I recall, “Barbara and George, I believe what is written in the New testament. But don’t play God He decides who goes to heaven, not you.” Any doctrinal certitude gave way to a calm trust that God had this figured out better than I did.”
Did you read that?
Any doctrinal certitude gave way to a calm trust that God had this figured out better than I did.
Wow. Just wow.
That statement hit me hard, really hard. Billy Graham refused to hang his hat, stake his claim, on any doctrine. Instead, he chose to rest in a quiet, calm trust in the Father, letting Him make those decisions.
How contrary to this world in which we live where we bicker and fight about every insignificant doctrinal claim.
Where Baptists cling to their complete abstinence for alcohol and Methodists cling to their ability to consume alcohol in moderation.
Where we argue over whether we sprinkle or dunk.
Where we argue over whether we should raise our hands in worship or stand reverently.
Where we argue over whether we should sing the old hymns or modern praise songs.
Where we argue over which version of scripture we should read and study.
Where we argue over whether we should allow transgender to choose how they identify or which bathroom they should use.
Where we argue over LGBTQ rights to marriage.
Where we argue over whether a divorced woman should be allowed to remarry or if she has to remain single until her ex-husband dies.
Where we argue over whether it’s ok for a woman (or man) to walk away from a severely dysfunctional, and/or abusive marriage or if he/she must suffer for the sake of Christ.
How many times have I been told how I am living in sin for divorcing my husband after his affairs. How many times have I been told I must remain single unless my ex-husband dies (which, in my case, he did). How many times have I been told I am a heretic, preaching a false gospel, encouraging others to sin because of my stance on God as a God who sets captives free instead of holding us captive in abusive marriages. How many times have I had people hold a doctrinal belief over my head, elevating institutions above individuals.
And yet, Billy Graham on the most fundamental aspect of the gospel, simply said, “I trust God. He has it all figured out and I will rest in Him. I will simply let Him be God.”
Maybe we should all take such a humble attitude, recognizing God’s ways are higher than our ways and we were never meant to fully understand His word this side of heaven. Maybe we should all cling loosely to our doctrinal beliefs while clinging tightly to our Savior who wants to lead us day-by-day into what He has for us. Maybe we should all humbly set aside our deeply held convictions to allow God room to mold us into His image.
Maybe Billy Graham is the epitome of Christ’s prayer for today’s believers in John 17. “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” (v 21).
Maybe Billy Graham was the epitome of Christian, of one who truly allowed Christ to live through him, to be a drink offering poured out and used up. Maybe he is the epitome of loving God and loving our neighbors while allowing God to be the judge. Maybe we should all imitate Graham as he imitated Christ in his days on this earth.