Billy Graham passed away last week, and all agree he will be remembered as the boldest witness for Jesus Christ of our time. As one woman pointed out in a radio interview the other day: “He shared his faith with confidence.” We may wonder who will fill Graham’s shoes as a messenger of the Gospel, but we need look no further than our mirrors.
I’ve been pondering this idea of shoe-filling throughout Black History Month because I believe all of us can make a difference in racial healing in America. But I recently told someone that I will pull my hair out if I hear one more white friend quote Martin Luther King’s desire for his children to “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Obviously, I share this desire for all children, but many who say this to me just don’t want to me talk about race. They make it harder for modern leaders – both local and national – to take the baton from the dead by accusing us of playing the “race card.” In this way, they oversimplify King’s dream with the content-of-your-character card.
The thing is, King wasn’t dreaming about colorblindness. He was dreaming about justice. Billy Graham understood this. His decisions to desegregate his audiences was about justice. He personally removed ropes that separated black and white attendees. That was justice and it required seeing color. Graham’s preaching was clear: Bigotry is sin and its cure is repentance.
Repentance from racism is not embracing colorblindness, however. It’s celebrating God’s decision to create a diverse world and proclaiming that He welcomes all into his family, leaving no one out. This is what makes the Gospel so miraculous in a nation facing disparities tied to race. As I wrote in this post, when we minimize difference in the name of keeping peace, we shortchange the glory of God. Only a mighty God can bring together people from every tongue, tribe, and nation for worship as brothers and sisters. And it is His mandate that we ensure all are clothed, housed, and fed. If we believe that, we need to share that faith with confidence.
I learned some things about Graham and King in this video series. You should check it out and consider how you can engage in the work of justice in your town. It’s obvious that America is not unified about racial justice, so let’s start filling the shoes of King and Graham. When I think of how Jesus left his mission to a dozen intimidated disciples, I think there is hope for us to have an impact too.
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.