In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:16 KJV
Five years ago I was part of a group of local pastors asked to reflect on the life of Billy Graham in what was thought to be his final days. Those final days extended to another half decade as he went home to be with the Lord early this morning. An aspect of his ministry that is too often forgotten is his contribution to racial reconciliation. Let us hear the Rev. Graham himself:
“Though the race question has important social implications, it is fundamentally a moral and spiritual issue. Only moral and spiritual approaches can provide a solution.” (Reader’s Digest. 1960)
He also stated in a broadcast in 1963: “Only the supernatural love of God through changed men can solve this burning question. Christ was not so much a reformer as He was a transformer. This does not mean the race problem is not to be preached and taught, but it is not to be our Gospel. … The racial problem in America will not be settled in the streets, but it could be settled in the hearts of men in a spiritual dimension.”
Here were my comments at the time that I now offer a hearty “Amen!” to this morning:
I look to Dr. Graham as a personal hero in way of race relations. Billy Graham led in this fight in incalculable ways. He caused a stir when he invited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to pray at his New York City crusade in 1957. He personally removed ropes intended to segregate crowds in Chattanooga, TN in 1953. Other times he boldly insisted on the integration of crowds or said he would not come to cities from Jonesboro, Arkansas to Jackson, Mississippi to Johannesburg, South Africa. His actions speak louder than words. These are real gospel moments when the man of God insisted on bringing together the people of God. I pray this part of his legacy will not soon be forgotten.
Today I add this video of Dr. Graham, George Beverly Shea, and Cliff Barrows singing, “This Little Light of Mine.” It makes me smile. I am thankful these men let their lights shine. I hope they do an encore real soon.