Today’s post is from my new book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus).
Last Saturday we posted Chapter 3: How Not To Become A Christian Doormat.
Love Like Jesus is due to be published in January of 2020.. If you’re interested in serving on the launch team send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chapter 4 — Jim Bakker, Billy Graham, And A Sinking Man
I Hated Jim Bakker
I hated Jim Bakker. You know, the guy who was married to Tammy Faye. Jim was a televangelist to millions. Jim was a man who created a four square mile Christian theme park. Jim was also a man who sunk down to incredible lows. Jim Bakker was the man who admitted to having sex with his young secretary, and whose life hit bottom when he was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 45 years in prison. From my perspective, Jim Bakker had a love for money more than a love of Christ. He lacked honesty and integrity. And he had a sex scandal thrown in for good measure. He was everything Jesus Christ is not. He misrepresented our Lord to millions.
Jim Bakker: I hated that guy.
Jim Bakker and Billy Graham
One day while Bakker was cleaning toilets in prison, a guard interrupted him. He thought he might be in some kind of trouble, but he soon found out he was pulled away from his toilet cleaning duties because Billy Graham was there to visit him. Bakker walked into the room looking and smelling like, well, like a convict who was just interrupted from cleaning toilets. But Billy Graham held out his arms and embraced Jim Bakker. He told him he loved him. They talked. Then they prayed.
Later, a few days after Bakker was released from prison, Billy Graham’s wife Ruth sat next to him in church, pretty much declaring to the world, “Jim Bakker is my friend.”
How Jesus Loved People
Peter was in the same boat as the rest of the disciples when he saw a man walking towards them on top of the water. The disciples were terrified. But after discovering that it was Jesus, Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” And Jesus did just that. Then Peter began to walk toward Jesus, on the water, until his lack of faith got the better of him. Then he sank.
But Jesus reached down with his hand and pulled Peter up. (Matthew 14:25-33)
Peter lived with Jesus, knew the voice of Jesus, knew the smell of Jesus, and saw the miracles first hand. But in spite of all that, after Jesus was arrested, Peter, upon hearing an accusation from a teenage girl, cursed and denied Jesus. Yet, in the end, even though Peter sunk to the level of cursing and denying, Jesus accepted Peter when he reinstated him after his resurrection. (Luke 22:56-62, John 21:15-17)
Beyond loving a person like Peter, Jesus loved people who struggled with sin and those living on the fringe of society. He loved prostitutes, lepers, and corrupt tax collectors. He loved people no one else wanted to love. People like Jim Bakker.
How to Love Like Jesus
When I learned how Billy Graham responded to Jim Bakker, I was confused and astonished. How could this be? How could Graham show such grace toward someone who repulsed people away from Christ? Away from the very person Graham spent his life trying to lead them to. It seems impossible to me.
But it also seems impossible to me that Jesus could stand on the water’s surface, reach down, and pull Peter up. It seems impossible to me that Jesus would accept Peter the way he did, after Peter denied him, and even called curses down upon himself. It seems impossible to me that Jesus loved people on the margins the way he did. (Matthew 26:74)
That’s how to love like Jesus. Don’t let your feelings lead you to believe grace and mercy are impossible. Find a Jim Bakker-ish person, someone who’s sunk to a new low, and though it seems impossible, by faith, stand on the water of grace and mercy, reach down, and pull them up.
That’s what Billy and Ruth Graham did for Jim Bakker.
That’s what Jesus did for Peter and people on the edge of society.
You be someone who loves like that too.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)
- David Aikman, Billy Graham: His Life and Influence, Thomas Nelson 2010
- Jim Bakker, I Was Wrong, Thomas Nelson 1997
Image via phoenixdiaz – Creative Commons