Billy Graham once told of being invited to a banquet at which celebrities from Hollywood and other segments of society would attend. The evangelist said a certain person was speaking and told an off-color joke. Billy said he, himself, smiled while all the other guests were laughing uproariously with delight over the joke.
At that moment, Graham said, he looked directly across the large banquet table from where he sat. His eyes immediately met the beautiful, famous, violet eyes of a friend. It was those of Elizabeth Taylor, one of the legends of Hollywood history.
They were staring almost sleepily at him. Her beautiful features were a mask of disappointment as she almost imperceptibly shook her head negatively, showing her disapproval.
“You shouldn’t be condoning by your smiles such ungodly conversation,” was her meaning.
Billy said he never forgot that lesson: that the believer is under constant surveillance by the world around us. It was a lesson well-learned, taught by a person, although his friend, who was by all accounts caught up in a wicked, show-business.
We sometimes—at least yours truly does—get frustrated and even angry when the media types, whether in news or entertainment, attack a minister or other Christian for one perceived misstep or another. As a matter of fact, there doesn’t even have to be a true misstep. The media people will just make up things while supposedly reporting the story.
Yet those within their own ranks who do truly wicked things, more often than not –unless there is a political purpose in condemning those acts—refuse to report the incident. Those among their own ranks are given passes, with no reportorial consequences.
We know that it is Satan and his minions, both human and supernatural, who are at the heart of fomenting such unfair, hypocritical vitriol against those who claim the name of Christ.
But is it really unfair?
The very fact that there is such a hypocritical stance in being held to a different set of standards offers proof of the fallen state–the depravity of man.
The world is becoming an increasingly stench-laden cesspool. The difference between good and evil, between the godly and ungodly, is painfully discernable. The good seems to be losing–the wickedness seems to be winning.
It is by “witness” that we present the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have no choice in this time of growing corruption at every level of human activity but to be in this cesspool environment.
We cannot be effective witnesses if we close off our ears, eyes, words, and actions from all that is going on around us—i.e., we must be in the world, but not of the world. It is our commission to go unto the entire world with the Good News–the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This was why Billy Graham told the true story of his own failure–or perceived failure—by Miss Taylor. Perhaps the greatest evangelist of modern times, Billy was not wrong in being among those hedonist banquet goers. He was wrong, he thought, by appearing to not condemn the speaker’s dirty joke.
His friend, Liz Taylor, was holding him to a different standard–a much higher standard. And, Graham concluded, this was not unfair. Christians being held to a higher standard by the lost of this world proves they are convicted of their sin. They might cast their condemning mockery in our direction, but all it proves is that they are without excuse. They know the difference between godliness and ungodliness.
By all accounts, Elizabeth Taylor truly loved her friend and admired his always adhering to Bible truth. She was rightfully disappointed when she saw him smile–out of the awkwardness of the moment, no doubt, but smile he did, nonetheless.
Now this takes us to the point that brings out another failure of recent days within the community of believers. And, to me, it is an egregious failure because it opened the great cause of Christ to media mockery of every sort.
Everyone knows of the chant that went viral and remains at the forefront of the political world. “Let’s go Brandon,” is the chant, produced by a reporter interviewing a race driver after his victory. The background chant that was heard in her interview with the driver was one I won’t put here, but most readers know its verbiage. It was invective against the present occupant of the White House.
The unedited version–the one the reporter quickly changed to avoid embarrassment of her network—is now heard at many college football games and in other venues. A word that not long ago would never be spoken –or rarely so—in so-called mixed company, now is used brazenly among many of the fairer sex, as well as by the male population.
For me to even state such shows the generation of which I’m a part. There seem to be no guardrails, and it is troubling to me.
Now we hear the congregation of a church with a national and international audience chanting the so-called cleaned-up version of the original chant. The media has played it incessantly. The media, which is itself proving every news cycle to be as wicked as any part of this debased culture, is pointing to the fact that this church, representing the Christian community that claims God’s message that you must be saved, is using the same ungodly language as found on the streets that church claims as sinful.
This is a fair accusation. The media in this case is right in condemning the hypocrisy.
To have allowed the congregation to get the chant started was bad enough, in my view. But to let them continue, while broadcasting before a national and international audience, was a horrendous thing.
We are to be in the world. We have no choice. But to be of the world is something to be avoided at all cost.
The church body in question has done the equivalent of diving headlong into the cultural cesspool. I hope there is repentance forthcoming for this body of believers and its pastor, both of whom have been followed and respected across America and throughout the world.