|Billy Graham and Martin Luther King Jr. - July 18, 1957|
Today, a meeting of two such notables wouldn't attract a lot of attention, but this was different. It was a statement that, regardless of what culture might say, the Gospel of Jesus Christ pays no attention to the color of a person's skin. In a letter to Graham after the Crusade, King praised Billy’s commitment to holding non-segregated revivals, commenting, “You have courageously brought the Christian Gospel to bear on the question of race.”
It was one thing to have non-segregated crusades in the North, but Billy Graham also held them throughout the South, beginning with Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1953. It was an issue of conscience with Graham, who, at least in one crusade, physically removed the barrier designed to keep whites and blacks separated. He also preached to an integrated audience in South Africa before the end of apartheid.
His commitment was not without cost. Many financial supporters withdrew their support when Billy refused to change his mind. He also faced criticism from the black community because he wasn't more vocal about the issue of civil rights. His focus was on a clear presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Of course, Martin Luther King Jr. paid the ultimate price for his decision to stand publicly against the injustice of segregation. Billy Graham remembered a conversation with King about the cost of commitment. "Martin Luther King suggested to me that I stay in the South and hold integrated meetings and that he was going to take to the streets and that he would probably get killed in the streets. 'But I don't think you ought to because you are going to be able to do some things that I can't and I'm going to be able to do some things you can't, but we're after the same objective.'"
The probability of his own death didn't keep King from doing what he felt was the right thing to do; the impact of his decision is still being felt today. Graham has been blessed to live to a ripe old age, and he, as well, is leaving a legacy of changed lives. They wanted to see justice done; to see hearts changed; to see compassion and truth triumph over cruelty and deception. We need men of courage like them today.
For many of you reading this, Billy Graham's most active ministry, and certainly Martin Luther's campaign, were before your time. I'm going to include video to one of Graham's messages and one of King's speeches. If you've never heard them, take a few minutes to get an education - it's worth the time.
Just Do The Right Thing!
Billy Graham and Woody Allen
Book Review: The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham
The Power of Words
"I Have A Dream"