Yesterday, Rev. Billy Graham passed in his sleep at 99 years old. For many of us, this marked the end of an era. I have heard the name Billy Graham for most of my life. He was hailed as “America’s Pastor.” He has preached the gospel around the world telling all in attendance that Jesus Christ loves them and they need to surrender their lives to him.
Some question whether or not he did enough in the area of social justice. For one, he was an evangelist, not a pastor. The primary focus of an evangelist is always on the salvation of the human soul… of people having an encounter with the risen Christ. Some may argue that there are different social justice methods to be used to get people to that point. However, our greatest need as men and women is salvation. Social justice, while important to the quality of our earthly experience, is secondary. It’s not unimportant. It is just not the primary thing.
Jesus preached and taught about the Kingdom of God as well as met people’s physical needs. But there were times when he chose to get involved in some “social justice” activities while avoiding others. I believe this is why believers in Christ are a part of the Body of Christ. We each have certain distinctions and responsibilities and callings to carry out. And together, we can cover all aspects of the gospel.
One thing Billy Graham did during his lifetime, was to use his platform to preach to desegregated crowds in a time of segregation. If a church or organization wanted him to come and preach, the venue had to be desegregated. That was his rule. He was also a close friend and supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the work he was doing with civil rights.
Ultimately, no one is perfect except Christ. We all make mistakes. We all have our foibles. We all try to work through our biases and blind spots. And we all will have to stand before God and give an account for the life that we lived. For, God alone is our final judge.
Approximately 150 thousand people die every day. That number is staggering. So, staggering that an individual can’t possibly focus on every one, otherwise they would never get anything done. Yet, when someone close to us dies or a celebrity we admire passes, it reminds us that we are all on our way into eternity whether we like it or not.
Life on earth is but for a moment, but what is to come is forever. And so, the message of God’s love, grace, mercy and sacrifice extended to humanity through Jesus Christ is even more urgent today than it’s ever been. For people we love and have known have left this life for the next. Some have been prepared to meet our Maker and others have not.
Rest in peace, Billy Graham. Millions around the world have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ because of your efforts. And now you have moved from labor to reward.