I am fascinated by leadership and always have been. It’s no wonder I seem to be asking with more and more frequency as my frustration mounts, who and how many are going to step up as Jesus Christ disciples and as boldly? Christ is certainly held up as a supreme example of leadership and exalted for the undeterred openness of righteousness, inspired by Father God.
Remember, Jesus called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 12:34).
Harsh words. The Pharisees had great religious influence — wouldn’t it have been a better strategy to tone it down a bit? But Jesus speaks the truth without fear of repercussions. He’s concerned with sharing his message, not gaining political support, so I reflect… where is that bold unabated leadership today?
Two such leaders
At a time when we barely see humanity in those we disagree with, it almost takes your breath away that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Rev. Dr. Billy Graham were actually friends.
Back when these two were young men (Graham outlived King by 50 years).- even with the unrest and prejudices – there was at least a fleeting sense that somehow we were still in this together; times have obviously changed.
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now, we’ve got some difficult days ahead…” — The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He would be assassinated the next day.
There are signs that these friends had more in common than the ministry and a southern upbringing. Graham was known for integrating crowds at his rallies, “sometimes literally moving the ropes meant to divide white and black attendees.” According to his biographer, David Aikman, Graham’s sermons address racism outright, “There is no excuse, ever, for bigotry and intolerance and prejudice,” and “we are to love as God loves us.”
“Jesus was not a white man; He was not a black man. He came from that part of the world that touches Africa and Asia and Europe. Christianity is not a white man’s religion, and don’t let anybody ever tell you that it’s white or black. Christ belongs to all people; He belongs to the whole world.” — The Reverend Billy Graham.
It’s important not to gloss over what were likely deep and real differences between these men, else we lose touch with the possibility that we can cope with our own deep disagreements.
“Had it not been for the ministry of my good friend Dr. Billy Graham, my work in the civil rights movement would not have been as successful as it has been.” — The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.
Graham wrote about King: “I had known Martin Luther King, Jr., for several years. His father, who was called Big Mike asked me to call him just plain Mike. … While in Rio [for the Baptist World Alliance], I gave a dinner … in honor of Mike, and I invited Southern Baptist leaders from the United States to come. I wanted to build a bridge between blacks and whites in our own South, and this seemed like a good opportunity to move toward that goal. Our friendly relationship with Mike made the point with my Baptist friends.”
They had different styles but a fierce commitment as leaders and It has long been rumored that Billy Graham might have actually put up the bail money on an occasion or two for King…
Speaking of leadership, this month our Good News cover feature is our third annual “Women of Distinction.” I encourage you to read the vignettes featuring four such women who admirably balance those roles in their respective fields and God’s kingdom.
Leadership. Bold Leadership.
Keep the Faith. I am Grateful.