Lessons from My Father: The Preacher (Billy Graham)
By the Reverend Franklin Graham,
Interview by Amy Levin-Epstein, Best Life
My father became very close with the Nixons. He was fairly close with John F. Kennedy. After the Watergate era, however, he said, “I’m not going to say anything to a politician again unless it’s of a spiritual nature. I’m not going to talk with them about political issues, about international issues. I’m just going to keep my mouth shut and speak to them about things that affect their hearts.” I’ve watched him my whole life. He is my example. My father doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. If someone hurts him or disappoints him, my father just forgives the person and moves on. I think that’s what love is all about.
There’s no book to teach you. My father told me you learn how to preach by preaching. The only way you’re going to learn it is to go out there and do it and learn from your mistakes. And he’s right.
I saw that he was wary of politicians. They thought, If we get close to Billy Graham, that will influence votes. My father tries to use his position in a spiritual context.
He taught me that there is a devil in this world. There are spiritual powers at work against God. Why do we have bars on the windows? Why do we have to have police forces? Why do we have a judicial system? It’s because of the evil in this world. Everything he taught, he taught us through the Scripture.
I never saw my parents fight. Never really saw them argue. My mother was a soul mate to him. They did everything together. My father treated my mother with the utmost respect. He honored her. I have a friend–we’re about the same age–who loses his temper and yells at his wife, and he cusses at her from time to time, and guess what? His children do exactly the same thing.
My father is careful with women. He would not even ride in the same car with a woman other than my mother. I remember in Little Rock, Hillary Clinton, when she was the wife of Governor Clinton, wanted to meet my father for lunch. She wanted to have a private conversation. Daddy said, “I’d be glad to meet you, but we’ll meet in a public place.” My father told me, “I’m going to be above reproach and not allow myself ever to be accused of something that wasn’t morally right.”
He was gone for a long time when I was young. One time, he was gone for about six months. My father started his ministry right after World War II, when men had been gone for four or five years to defend the freedom of this nation. He felt, Should I do less for the sake of the cross? He later told me, “Son, if I had to do this over again, I wouldn’t have been gone that long.” When I’m through with my work, I go back home.
Life is a circle. When you are small, your relationship with your parents is one thing, and then you get to be an adult and they start treating you like an adult. And then when you are older, the roles reverse. Instead of the parents providing for the children, now we as children are helping to provide for our parents.
God did not give us religion. Religion is man’s attempt to reach a holy God.
He knows how to stay on message. All these years, he has been faithful to what he feels God called him to do, and that is to preach this wonderful good news, this Gospel, that Jesus Christ died for our sins, that He rose again, and if we would confess our sins to God and ask for His forgiveness and turn from those sins and invite Christ by faith into our hearts and into our lives, that God would forgive us.
The Reverend Franklin Graham, 56, runs the organization his father founded. The fourth of five children born to evangelist Billy Graham and his wife, Ruth Bell Graham, Franklin has been a Christian evangelist and missionary from the age of 23. Since 2000, he has served as CEO, and since 2002 as president, of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. His father, one of most celebrated and well-loved preachers in American history, has counseled U.S. presidents from Harry Truman to George W. Bush.