Of Franklin Graham, Baseball, and Proclaiming the Gospel
I was watching Hannity & Colmes on the Fox News Channel the other night. I was anxious to see their interview with Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham. Perhaps most of all, I was anxious to see how Graham would deal with the inevitable question of salvation that would come from Alan Colmes. I’ve seen Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson sit in that hot seat when Colmes would ask his standard Christian baiting question.
If you haven’t seen the Hannity & Colmes show, Sean Hannity is the ultra-conservative Christian. Colmes is the ultra-liberal humanist, with eyes that are too close together for him to be anything but a caricature. Whenever a Christian leader (such as Robertson, Falwell, or Dobson) sits in that hot seat for the first time, Colmes always asks, “So if I don’t believe in Jesus, am I going to hell?” This is the curveball question of which Colmes seems especially proud. At this point, I’m usually on the very front edge of my Lazy-boy, waiting for our man-of-the-hour to jump on that opportunity to share the gospel with a television audience of millions. As much as I respect the aforementioned Christian leaders, every one of them waffled and danced. Oh, they would take a swing at that pitch, but they would do so timidly. They avoided responding directly to that opening. So you’ll understand, I was anxious to hear how Franklin Graham would handle the inevitable question. He never got a chance.
In the interviews with Robertson, Falwell, and Dobson, Colmes acted like he was delivering the deathblow question, “So if I don’t believe in Jesus, am I going to hell?” If I could read his thoughts, I know they’d be something like, “Let’s see him answer that one without sounding like a divisive, intolerant, religious bigot.” Fortunately, I’ve never read his thoughts – I think the transmission is just too weak. To see Reverend Falwell dance around that topic was simply pitiful. “Well,” replied Falwell. “Jesus Christ died for all of our sins.” True, but not to the point, and not an answer to Alan’s question. A slow swing popped that one up into the infield. Why did they dodge that question? To be quite honest, I’m not sure. I have a feeling they were afraid of being slapped with a label of intolerance. It’s a pretty common phenomenon these days. Whatever the reason though, we cannot afford to hide the truth – or even soften it – due to fear or shame. In Romans 1:16, Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth;.”
Anyway, back to Graham. I kind of left us hanging there, didn’t I? Well, I want you to be on the edge of your seats like I was. Where was I? Oh yes! Reverend Graham never got the chance to answer Colmes’ curveball question. The reason is that he never let Colmes ask it. Reverend Graham (who is now my hero) jumped on the opportunity of having an audience of millions of television viewers to jump right into sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. He rattled off the sinful nature of man, the wages of sin, and the redemption of man through Jesus Christ. As he went through the salvation plan, he fired off scripture verses from John 3:16 to Romans 3:23, and practically everything in between. Colmes could only sit there dumbfounded, as this man of God used the hot seat to evangelize. I think I heard him get in a few words, but they were limited to, “Yea, but….but…I see, but…” When Graham finally started winding down, Colmes responded predictably, “But don’t you think that’s rather exclusionist?” Graham looked right at Colmes’ narrow eyes, smiled warmly, and replied, “Jesus said, in John 14:6, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.’ That is exclusive only with respect to how one can share in eternal life. It is very IN-clusive, in that this is a free gift available to anyone with a soul, including you.” YESSS!! He hit that one waaayy back into the cheap seats! I don’t usually come out of my seat cheering like that when I’m not watching the Seattle Mariners play, but that was so refreshing to hear!! Move over Ichiro and Boone, we got a new slugger in the game!
At this point, Colmes decided to pull his backup question, and asked Reverend Graham if he felt that Islam was an evil religion. I sucked in a breath and sat back down on the edge of my Lazy-boy. Here too was a question that many Christian leaders have dodged. Graham shifted only slightly in the batter’s box, looked at Colmes, and said, “You tell me.” He went on to state that while he has many Muslim friends, one cannot run away from the fact that the Qur’an preaches violence and that Islamic extremism is "a greater threat than anyone's willing to speak [of]." While not quite a grand slam home run, Graham effectively hit a base clearing double off the wall. He refused to compromise his beliefs or be ashamed of the gospel out of political correctness.
According to the Washington Times, he continued to speak out the next night at a book signing. “I have many Muslim friends,” Graham said, “but I want the people of this country to know that the god of Islam is not the Christian God. The god of Islam is not a father. The God of Christianity was the Father of Jesus Christ. There's a mood in this country that we'll believe a generic belief. That is not acceptable. Political correctness has run amok in this country.” That one cleared the centerfield wall, and made it halfway to the upper deck!!
Is Franklin Graham intolerant! No, of course not! Listening to him, it’s quite clear that he has a love and a burden for all people of all races and creeds. But this man of God would not allow the thought police to intimidate him into compromising his beliefs, or denying his God! Graham is a believer in the absolute truth that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and he acknowledges that truth proudly before those who would scoff at him and ridicule him. In doing so, he has set an example for others to follow.
How often do we shy away from proudly proclaiming the truth in public? How often has fear of the thought police caused us to hedge a little in describing the biblical perspective on sin, and on false religious beliefs? How often have you even mentioned the name of Jesus outside of home or church during the past week? It is the greatest name this world could ever know. That name represents the hope that exists for all people. Outside of that name, there is no true hope – only illusion. I hear the name of Jesus mentioned quite a bit outside of home or church. Unfortunately, it is typically uttered in a blasphemous manner by unbelievers, and is usually preceded by a stubbing of a toe, or the smashing of a finger.
It is long past time for Christians to recognize that we are the army of God on this earth. Our mission is to reach the souls of the lost for our King! We must not be ashamed to hold forth the name of Jesus. We must not allow fear of the thought police and their labels to silence us! We need to follow the example Graham set, and proudly acknowledge our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ before men!
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