This week is the funeral of Billy Graham. His passing resulted in a plethora of articles written by bloggers like myself. While I appreciate the life and work of Mr. Graham, the articles posted about him have left me a little concerned.
Several of the articles I read spoke of Billy Graham as a “hero” of the faith. Personally, I am incredibly uncomfortable with that type of language.
First, it begins to separate the followers of Jesus into different categories. This is represented in other ways with titles like “clergy and laity.” It is a subtle shift from the “priesthood of all believers” to preachers somehow being closer to God and more admirable. Let me ask you, is Billy Graham any better in God’s sight than a lady who spends 50 years quietly teaching the children of the Church with no recognition?
Second, it continues to promote a “celebrity” culture in the Church. I cannot say this any more clearly, “I hate this thinking.” I believe we must be cautious about placing people of faith on a pedestal no matter what they have done. Once someone is lifted up, it is easy for them to become the object of our worship. Subtly we shift our faith into that person, and everything they say is correct. Then when some sin becomes public, our faith is shattered. I believe we are all equal in God’s sight no matter what we have said or done.
Third, Jesus is the true hero. In Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth, he posses an interesting question in the first chapter. He asks, “Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” Paul saw clearly that he was not the Savior. Jesus is our Savior. Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. A friend of mine used to argue that the word we translate as “author” in that passage should be “hero.” Christ alone is the hero of the New Testament and the Christian faith.
With all that said, I appreciate the life and work of Billy Graham. To be a hundred percent honest I have listened to only a little of his preaching and never read anything he wrote. His influence was most significant before my time in ministry. He was in his 70’s before I ever preached my first sermon. Everything I know about the man was that his life was devoted to telling people about Jesus. I understand that he proclaimed Christ as Lord and Savior to everyone he encountered while maintaining his integrity. I admire him for his work in the Lord. He was a simple man doing the Lord’s work.
I hope and pray that will be the story of my life. I want no monuments or plaques. I desire for no one to build me a memorial or name a building after me. I just want to be known as a man who God used to accomplish his work.
I will never be as well-known as Billy Graham and neither will you. That does not mean that we live inferior lives. God has a plan and purpose for you. Will you let God use your life?