Billy Graham has been in the news quite a bit lately. This past Friday, ABC had a special and TIME magazine had an 8-page spread on him. Both of these were tied in to a new book, THE PREACHER AND THE PRESIDENTS by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. Most of the material had to do with his relationships with every president since Harry Truman.
The news media seem to have a fascination with and an admiration for this man, which seems strange, since many other evangelical preachers and leaders are not treated with the same awe and respect. Why is this?
I believe it’s because there are so few persons of integrity around. We seem to have grown calloused to the faults which are exposed almost daily in our national political, business, sports and even religious leaders. Scandals about in all of these areas. Most of us have lost our respect for authority because so many of our authority figures seem to do everything in their power to destroy that respect.
But this man is different. The media have tried to find some scandal, but they’ve come away empty-handed. He’s not perfect. He’s made quite a number of foolish mistakes. But the difference between him and others is that he freely admits his mistakes and moves on. No excuses. No cover ups. No scandals.
I’m not a follower of preachers. My favorite preacher is my pastor, Phil. My wife says that I am her favorite preacher. I believe that just as so many in the world seem to find their own personal worth in some sports or movie star, Christians are capable of this also. The Apostle Paul speaks to this problem in his first letter to the Corinthians: “For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1:11-13). “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men?” (3:4).
I only heard Billy Graham preach “live” one time in my life and that was over 50 years ago. I’ve probably only listened to at most, a half-dozen of his sermons in my whole life. I’m not a follower of Billy Graham in that sense, but I do feel that unconsciously I have tried to imitate him over my life as a Christian. Not his preaching style, but his integrity. I want to be the sort of man he is. I want to be the sort of person that when I am scrutinized, my scrutinizers can find few if any matters to condemn me for. I want to be able to say as Paul did to the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (11:1).