You can hold debatable beliefs with passion and conviction without being at war with those who disagree. You can promote a potentially divisive message without alienating those who don’t buy it. You can be an evangelist for your cause — religious or otherwise — without being an obnoxious zealot.
The late evangelist Billy Graham demonstrated this. We can all take a cue from him and his long, history-making career, wherever we are on the religious or political spectrum.
Since Graham’s death, I have read the torrent of articles about him and recalled conversations I have had with those who knew him. It’s Graham’s smile that stands out in their memories. Despite the pressures of his work and the criticism that goes with the territory when you’re a famous evangelist, he exuded remarkably little anger or defensiveness. His trademark was his uncomplicated joy and confidence in his message and faith.
Compare that with the public voice of evangelicalism most often heard today — more of a growl than a song. This, of course, is mainly due to partisan politics, which has become an area of intense focus for the evangelical movement. Graham, by contrast, maintained a wise distance from politics even while providing personal counsel to presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.