Ed Stetzer on Preparing for Rev. Billy Graham’s Memorial Service, and Reflecting on His Love for Our Hurting World

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Nearly a week after Rev. Billy Graham’s death, so many around our world are still mourning. Closed-casket viewings will take place in Graham’s childhood home on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library where the Billy Graham Association is expecting long lines and many visitors. These public viewings will be followed by a funeral service this Friday in Washington, D.C.

Before the invitation-only service, though, Rev. Graham’s body will lie in repose in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday and Thursday. It’s important to note that this privilege is regularly given to U.S. presidents, members of Congress, Supreme Court judges, and elite military personnel; rarely, though, are citizens outside these particular realms of public service given such an honor.

Looking at the size and scale of these proceedings, it becomes clear that Rev. Billy Graham wasn’t just beloved by some small ground of fundamentalist followers. You don’t have to be a Bible-thumper, church-goer, or even call yourself a Christian to love and respect this man.

Former President George H.W. Bush, reflecting on Graham’s legacy, said:

His [Graham’s] faith in Christ and his totally honest evangelical spirit inspired people across the country and around the world. I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man.

President Bush is right. Rev. Graham was a man who appealed to all people—believers and unbelievers—because of his exemplary character. There is much that we, the church, can learn from his leadership and legacy of outreach even today in our 21st century context.

Cultural Trends

Newsflash: we live in a broken world. The realities of human fallenness and sin haven’t changed much since 1947, when Graham preached his first city-wide crusade; America needs the gospel just as much as ever.

Nevertheless, a few particular symptoms of our brokenness stand out. First off, most recognize that we live in an age of increased ideological polarization. Those who stand on the opposite side of the aisle—whether that aisle be religious or political—are seen as inferior and unworthy of respect. Discourse, for this reason, is often bitter and vitriolic.

Unfortunately, Christians too must take responsibility for their piece of the pie here. Religious leaders have, in many cases, contributed to the polarization and ill-will towards the ‘other’; those who don’t see the world through their same lens. Instead of being known for their warm embrace and unconditional acceptance, Christians have developed a reputation for judgment and anger against unbelievers.

The church has developed a dangerous routine: we meet people, we share the gospel, they reject it, and we write them off.

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Source: Christianity Today