Billy Graham died on Sunday, February 21st.
News of his death came as a shock to me. I knew Billy Graham was old (he was ninety-nine at the time of his passing), but I had subconsciously assumed he was going to live forever, or at least for a while yet. Though I had never met him, his absence sweeps a shadow across my mind, as though I had lost something personally.
But I am waxing melodramatic. Billy Graham lived a very long and full life full of service to our Lord Jesus Christ. He is arguably the greatest evangelist in the history of the Christian religion, next to the Apostle Paul, and it is believed that by the time of his death he had witnessed to several billion people, more than any other Christian in history. Gallup Polling listed him as one of the most admired men in the world over sixty different times, a record for the company. In short, we would be hard pressed to find another person, man or woman, like Billy Graham.
Despite his decades of highly successful ministry, Graham lived during the greatest period of moral decay in the history of Western Civilization. When he was born, almost a century ago, teaching the theory of evolution in public schools was considered a crime, divorce, while increasingly common, was taboo for most Americans, and very few could have guessed that by the time of his death the country would publicly celebrate such concepts as homosexuality, abortion, and “gender fluidity.” Though he labored for many, many years, and across two centuries, Billy Graham could not stop, indeed, he could hardly slow, the gradual decline of American society.
Billy Graham is dead. He was foremost preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and in his death the unyielding forces of darkness close in all the more. We have lost our greatest champion, and even with him, what could we do against the evil that afflicts us?
In Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan’s brilliant 2005 superhero movie, Bruce Wayne, returns from his Asian exile, and flys back to Gotham on his private jet. Bruce contemplates what he will do; the League of Shadows is threatening to destroy his city, but Bruce still believes there is hope, and he vows to fight the crime that ravages Gotham himself. He cannot do it as Bruce Wayne, however. He is just a man; he can be killed; he can be silenced. He must become a symbol, something “incorruptible,” something that transcends mortality.
When we place our hopes in humanity, we place them unwisely. We all know this, but we all do it anyway. How many times have you heard or understood that supporting President Trump is “God’s will,” or that he’s “God’s agent,” or something of that nature? How about other figures, other men and women, upon whom we are told to, as Christians, stake our trust and allegiance?
I need not tell you doing so is foolishness. There is no man or woman with power of their own; Christ said, quite rightly, that one cannot turn their own hair black or white. Billy Graham, as great as he was, did not bring a single soul to Christ himself. God gave the increase, and Graham was merely the tool in His hand.
Billy Graham’s death is certainly a time for sadness and reflection, but even more it is an occasion for joy and hope. Graham has gone to be with the Lord; he is more alive now than he was a year ago. And the symbol of God’s Word is untarnished. Our standard can never topple, our cause can never be defeated. Let us go forth boldly, like Graham, and proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Good News of the Gospel! Let us “proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound!”