Billy Graham’s death hit me pretty hard. Weird isn’t it. I never went to one of his crusades, I never answered the call when I happened to catch one of his television specials from a crusade so why did I feel like a member of my family passed away?
Growing up we didn’t do revivals. I did go to one when I was in high school because, well at my high school, you were nobody if you didn’t attend a revival, especially when one of our classmates was preaching, but I left before the end shaken because I had never seen someone speak in tongues or dancing and screaming in a church. Now a public high school where kids feel compelled to attend revival even if they aren’t Christian just seems so weird doesn’t it? I can’t remember the last time I was invited to a revival or heard one talked about in church. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve attended conferences like Women of Faith so maybe those are the new revivals of our generation. The first couple of Christian conferences I attended I really enjoyed and had an amazing healing experience at my first Women of Faith conference, but after that, they just seemed like opportunities to sell books or other stuff to Christian women. It was like a girl’s weekend, without wine and the beach.
Back to Billy Graham – I did watch Billy Graham Crusade television specials when they came on. And I remember really liking what Dr. Graham was saying but it didn’t fit within my Mormon framework. Even so, I remember watching even though I was aggravated that his special had pre-empted my regularly scheduled programming on all the channels. You see, growing up, we made a sport of making fun of television preachers like Earnest Angley and Reverend Roosevelt Franklin. But Billy Graham was never the source for or target of our ridicule.
Last week, after I learned of his death, I listened to hours and hours of his messages. He spoke the absolute truth about the Bible and Jesus and didn’t waver in his message, decade, after decade, after decade. I find that truly inspiring. He was a man who determined what his path would be and did not waiver from it. He didn’t get lured into the quagmires that other televangelists find themselves in. And his honesty came through in those messages.
Since becoming a born again Christian, I have admired the entire Graham family. I can’t imagine the sacrifice it was for Ruth to raise five children in the spot light of America’s preacher while he was gone for months at a time fulfilling his calling. And I can’t imagine what it was like to grow up as a Graham child. And yet they all seem like lovely people, some scarred, no doubt, but generally just a group of people that love the Lord and honor their godly parents. That just seems rare in our world today.
That leads me to our need for revival. I think most people would agree that our society is broken. The wounds inflicted by the last presidential election season run deep and rather than heal, we keep ripping off the band-aides and picking the scabs. Tim and I were talking about this idea of revival as a means of civilized society this morning. I was reading Titus 3:3-7
3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
The words “We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” Jumped off the page at me. That describes so many of the interactions I witness on social media and on what used to be news programs that are now just opinion pieces disguised as news. Hated and hating. Red and blue. I read an article this past week extoling Rev. Graham but doing it from a red state versus blue state perspective and calling him a purple preacher. Really. Why must we all be one versus the other? Confession – I vote one way but live my life another. I am more left of center than my ballot will ever appear because I am more than my vote. Aren’t we all so why allow people to so label us? And why label others that vote differently than us?
In my lovely neighborhood, surrounded with ancient live oaks draped in Spanish moss filtering out the abundant Savannah sunshine, there lives this hated and hating mentality. We now have three separate Facebook pages for our neighborhood and its inhabitants due to all the name calling and calling out of parenting or lack thereof and honestly, it all stems from a fight over political campaign signs. Seems so ridiculous that people feel comfortable saying things to and about their neighbors from the safety of their keyboards when they could just walk next door and have a chat if they didn’t want the neighbor kid riding his bike through their back yard. But that’s not how we do it anymore.
I asked Tim this morning after reading the passage in Titus if he thought it was possible that the rudeness and incivility that is abundant in our world today is directly correlated to what this passage is telling us. Perhaps what we really need is a revival or a Billy Graham style crusade. Kindness is clearly missing in our world today. A changed heart sees the world differently and sees people differently. I pray that I have the eyes of Christ when I look at my fellow man. That instead of a rude driver cutting me off as I get on the Truman, I see a tired mother with a car load of children she has to drop off at three different schools before getting to work herself. Instead of a grumpy clerk, I see a lonely teenager who is struggling with keeping up her grades while working and wondering if anyone will ask her to prom. And instead of a bully I see a troubled kid who torments kids smaller and more vulnerable than him because he has been so damaged by abuse, neglect and emotional scarring that his brain has been trained to react with aggression. I say it all the time, we need Jesus. Really, we do and Billy Graham would agree.
My question this morning after reading my bible was, “Do you suppose the generations that participated in the Billy Graham crusades of the 40’s, 50’s and 70’s were more civilized as a result of the numbers of people who gave their lives to Christ at these events?” Makes we want to dig in and do some research.