|Billy's Full Gospel of Love and Compassion|
09 Nov 2009 - Billy Graham celebrated his 91st birthday last Saturday. The Christian Post SG reported that he is still in relatively good health for his age dealing with mascular degeneration, which has kept him home. However, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association he founded 60 years ago continue "proclaiming God's love and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to lost people in many places around the World". He has preached over 210 million people in over 185 countries.
The "USA Today" reported on 15 July 2005, in an article entitled "The Gospel of Billy Graham: inclusion" of how he had changed over the years from solely being involved with the Soutern Baptist to be much more inclusive over the years. Unlike Pastors such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, he managed to overcome his religious fundamentalist roots. He started as a hell fire preacher in the 50s but overcame his own racial prejudice with integrated crusades in the 1960s. He had taken sides in politics "In earlier years, in the '50s and the '60s, I did take sides in some things, even in politics to an extent. I didn't mean to, but I did. But I don't do that anymore" said Billy Graham, who now avoids siding with the Christian Right.
The Rev Billy Graham, personified a simple yet unadulterated version of Evangelical Christianity which the Church has departed being so eager to be involved in so many other non biblical aggendas and crusades against gays. When Billy Graham was asked to take sides to come against gays and gay marriage, his reply has been "If I took sides in all these different divisive areas, I would cut off a great part of the people that I really want to reach. So I've felt that the Lord would have me just present the Gospel". Biblically, not only would he had marginalised many from the Gospel message but he would have undermined his message, spiritual morality and credibility. Why are we so focused on gays who are less than 5% of the population, which has become a stumbling block for many preachers and a test of their passion for the heart of God. After 2000 years, are we of Christ, or of the religious pharisees who persecuted Him, as we likewise persecute gays today.
Accepting Gays must have been difficult, but the change started in 1997, when at the San Francisco Crusade, Billy proclaimed "There are other sins. Why do we jump on that sin as though it's the greatest sin? What I want to preach about in San Francisco is the love of God. People need to know that God loves them no matter what their ethnic background or sexual orientation. I have so many gay friends, and we remain friends". Billy started his reflection equating Homosexuality as a sin, but wonders why we "jump on it" as the greatest sin, but he quickly retracted when his evangelical heart for God's love and compassion changed his mind, he then begin to equate an ethnic background to sexual orientation which are all innate. Instead of using the word "homosexual", Billy Graham quickly mentioned "gay", and amazingly "gay friends", for he knew that few Christian Pastors would ever accept gay men as an equal, as friends in a time when Christians would have nothing to do with gays except to persecute them. Rev Billy Graham offered friendship, he offered God's love with a tangible hand of frienship instead of hate and loud voices trying to ban gay marriages or to put gays in prisons even though they caused us no harm.
We may not be as reflective as the Rev Billy Graham to able to be self reflective, and make the u-turn in the middle of the sermon from saying that homosexuality was a sin, to hinting that perhaps it might be innate and just like the race we were born into, because it takes love, the love of God, the love of Christ. We may preach about Law in City Harvest, about grace in New Creation, but there is seldom a church that focused on God's Love and Compassion. We preached so much about judgement, yet have forgotten that we deserved great judgement for how badly we have treated the weak and despised gay minority in our midst and mispresented it as somehow sanctioned by God.
Jesus loved, but He was able to love with truth and without judgment or bias, Sure, He hated Sin, but he never mentioned Homosexuality as a sin even “just as any sin”, but the sin he mentioned and hated most was the sin of the religious right who should have known to do right because they knew the scriptures but instead were hypocrites, legalistic, and used their religion for their own benefit and prosperity instead of proclaiming God’s love. In a final act of hate, they killed their own Messiah claimed that Jesus was a sinner, and rationalized it as according to the law. When they called gays as sinners, know that the religious once did likewise to Jesus.
When Billy Graham mentioned “Homosexuality is a sin like any other sin”, there would be a moment of hesitation and doubt because more than many other preacher, he understood that he represented Christ, Did Christ come against Gays? Could he join in the majority to misinterpret the OT where straight people committed same sex actions as part of worship the fertility gods. Even the Jewish religious leaders opposing Jesus, so legalistic and cunning, would only bring a female prostitute to test Jesus, but not a Gay man. Paul condemned the Judaist in Rome that their adherance to the law actually led them to sin even more when he criticized their straight ancestors who even though were law minded like themselves worshiped other gods even to the extent of having same sex acts with each other to please these idols. The fact that we misinterpret Paul to condemn gays shows that we are not much better.
When Billy Graham mentioned “Homosexuality is a sin”, he knew instantly that he may have gone too far beyond a biblical mandate. There should be a rush of doubt and reflection, of any true blue Christian seeking the heart of Christ when they say Homosexuality is a sin especially if they were thinking Christians and not merely lambs following the head shepherd every weekend at Suntec and Expo. The problem is that we too suffer from the religious legalistic and hypocritical mindset that the Jewish Pharisees was influenced by even though they knew the scriptures by heart it did not help because there was no real revelation. As a result of the fallen nature, there is a sin conscienceere where there is a tendency to slide towards self efforts to reach God resulting in self righteousness and religious pride which seem to take the preaching on grace every Sunday at Suntec to overcome.
The revelation is Christ, the personification of God’s righteousness, grace, mercy, love and compassion. He was the fulfillment of God’s requirements for justice through the law, yet through the fulfillment required much grace and mercy, which he demonstrated through His hands-on love and compassion to the outcasts of the community. We have our Christianity the wrong side up, focused on the rich, powerful, and religious, rather than the poor, despised, and have-nots. We have a form of religion just as the Pharisees, picking the smallest sins in others and bullying the weakest group.
The Fundamentalist churches have focused on God’s righteousness with respect to the religious laws, but end up being no more righteous other than proclaiming their own righteousness and exemplifying their hypocrisy and legalism and self serving prosperity theology so prevalent amongst the religious leaders in Jesus’ days. The Pharisees could not see the Messiah because He was not one of them nor was He with them. The smallest peck in the eye (Mat 7:3), such as homosexuality became a big log of an emergent threat because they could not see the big log of their own sins through their religious glasses. Because of the fallen nature, there is a sin conscience which result in a tendency to slide towards the promotion of self and self centeredness. It is a natural slide towards legalism and religious pride. The OT Laws so championed by the Anglican and Methodist Churches in Singapore does not constraint us, it just proves that we are guilty as charged (Rom 4:15, Gal 3:24) and worst still brings out the self righteousness in us and find us leading with religious zeal an anti-gay movement as if this was the Gospel.
The more liberal churches focused on practical Christianity on the other end of the spectrum – focusing on love and compassion as exemplified by the example and legacy of Jesus. However, Jesus went far beyond being a good teacher and prophet in the likes of the many religious leaders whether Jewish or Christian Saints and Popes, to be remembered in history. Each one of them died, but non rose again. It is the resurrected Lord that was foolishness to the Greeks. The Jews could not accept Jesus as the Messiah, but the Greeks could not accept that God Himself had to die and rose again (1 Cor 1:23). Without the resurrection, we believed in vain, all our love and compassion would be in vain. Why because at the end, at judgment day, we are still sinners despite all our good works.
The Full Gospel therefore is found in Christ, in the fullness of His Righteousness, Grace, mercy, Compassion and Love. We have traditionally preached about God's righteousness, and there has been stirrings of a grace centered gospel revolution to focus on God's grace and mercy, but the full Gospel comes when we have love and compassion especially to those so despised and rejected by the "moral" majority. We stand and walk with Christ when we say no to injustice, inequality, and hate, to which the GLBT community has hitherto suffered at the hands of Legalistic Christians who have strayed far away from the heart of God and have caused great harm instead. One day there would be shock and horror when the Christian religious right see gays in heaven and Jesus embracing them. But Billy Graham would just smile for he had it right, he saw it a long way off that the true Gospel is inculsive to all who seek Christ as their Lord and Saviour.