Shining Examples

“Both came to the place where they held to their convictions while recognizing that others, with whom they disagreed, could be their brothers and sisters in Christ.”

What is this quote about?

Adam Hamilton is writing about two important people in his life, his Aunt Celia Bell and Pastor Billy Graham, people he pinpoints as having spiritual maturity.

His aunt came from a Church of Christ background, a conservative church that takes the Bible literally and does not allow musical instruments in worship. When he is writing Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White, she is ninety-two.

He writes “I find that her faith is much broader than that held by many in her denomination.” I love what he says about her: she has accepted a broad range of denominations as being authentically Christian, she thinks we “make mountains out of molehills” when it comes to our opinions.  “What I love most about her is how she’s able to see good and truth in those who hold very different opinions from her own.”

Surely everybody has some knowledge of Pastor Billy Graham, born in North Carolina in 1918 and one of the most admired pastors in the world. This Southern Baptist minister is so popular throughout the world that he has been on Gallup’s List of Most Admired Men and Women fifty-five times since 1955.  His evangelistic efforts have led many thousands to Christ and he became counselor to Presidents from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama.  Here is what many do not know about Billy Graham.  He saw beyond the issues that divide us spiritually and politically to a larger unity that we should all hold dear.

Writing in an article in Christian Century Graham states “I am now aware that the family of God contains people of various ethnological, cultural, class and denominational differences….Within the true church there is a mysterious unity that overrides all divisive factors.  In groups which in my ignorant piousness I formerly “frowned upon,” I have found men so dedicated to Christ and so in love with the truth that I have felt unworthy to be in their presence.  I have learned that although Christians do not always agree, they can disagree agreeably, and that what is needed today is for us to show an unbelieving word that we love one another.”

As you read his words, you wonder what had gotten him to this point.

He saw the need to work with others, instead of denigrating them. There is no indication that he had abandoned his views; he was just able to see value in some of the ideas that others express.

Think about key times in your life when you realized that what divides you from other people pales in comparison to the need we have to join with others in unity.   I have had times in my personal life when that has happened. I can point to times when we all saw the need for loving each other.  I saw a country that was very polarized politically come together to grieve on September 11, 2001.  Many who had not darkened a church door found themselves going to church for solace.   More recently, many people were united in grief over the Charleston South Carolina shooting that took place in Emmanuel AME Church, when a young man who was fueled with racial hatred, gunned down nine African-American Bible study participants.   Suddenly the idea that some people are white and some people are black had very little meaning.  The most important thing seemed to be that humans were killed in a senseless manner and now family members had to deal with their loss and a church had to deal with a tragedy.

It is important to think about what life can teach us.

Some of the lessons come about from times when greater ideas come forth from despicable acts, but some lessons come from just opening up our ears and listening to those around us as they express themselves. What is your attitude as you listen? Are you intent on building a bridge or are you intent on building a wall?

Please ponder Jesus’ words in John 13:34-35:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Aunt Celia and Pastor Graham understood.

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