On Sunday evenings, I listened to Dr. Graham’s radio broadcast, The Hour of Decision, and I read most, if not all, of his books. Throughout his ministry he avoided the excess of other evangelists, placing himself on a limited salary and avoiding scandal. I watched him join hands with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in support of racial integration.Every President since Harry Truman has sought him for counsel and prayer, both Democrat and Republican. Some tried to use their friendship for political advantage, others credited him with strengthening their faith. He is now 94 years old and lives at his home in Montreat, North Carolina where a few friends and nurses attend him since his wife's death six years ago.
Thirty years ago, when he was already in his sixties, Dr. Graham reflected on his evangelistic ministry and asked some sobering questions. “I look back on my many years as an evangelist, and I wonder, have I made the Christian faith look too easy? … Of course our salvation is a result of what Christ has done for us in His life and death and resurrection, not what we can do for ourselves. Of course we can trust Him to complete in us what He has begun. But in my eagerness to give away God’s great gift, have I been honest about the price He paid in His war with evil? And have I adequately explained the price we must pay in our own war against evil at work in and around our lives?”Last year my wife and I spent the summer in Nuremberg, Germany working with a new church. While I was there I read Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Before he was martyred by Adolph Hitler, Bonhoeffer raised similar questions in his book, The Cost of Discipleship.
Bonhoffer wrote, “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. … Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought with a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.” Speaking of his generation, Bonhoeffer wrote, “We poured forth unending streams of grace. But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was hardly ever heard.”Billy Graham’s probing reflections on his ministry and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s prophetic book written during Hitler’s rise to power raise questions about our own faith. Have we responded to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him? Are we His disciples? Are we seeking to keep His commandments in all our relationships at home, at school, at church and at work? Are we opting for cheap grace that costs us nothing or are we embracing costly grace that cost God his Son?