Chapter 4: Jim Bakker, Billy Graham, And A Sinking Man–From the new book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)

Man sinking into a quicksand whirlpool

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 later this year. If you’re interested in serving as a beta reader send me an email at kurt@kurtbennettbooks.com.

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)

 

Notes:

  1. David Aikman, Billy Graham: His Life and Influence, Thomas Nelson 2010
  2. Jim Bakker, I Was Wrong, Thomas Nelson 1997

Image via phoenixdiaz – Creative Commons

6 thoughts on “Chapter 4: Jim Bakker, Billy Graham, And A Sinking Man–From the new book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)

  1. I knew a fellow (Jim) in our church in Phoenix long, long ago. We moved up to northern AZ and eventually to Oregon. When we moved back to Arizona my son was on the bus one day and Jim reconnected with my son. My son gave Jim our phone number and we talked.
    You see, Jim confessed he was on Meth and he desired to get clean. I introduced him to a gal friend that I knew for decades whom I prayed for during her classes to become a Respiratory Therapist. I knew this connection was of the LORD. She fulfilled her desire to be a Respiratory Therapist through encouragement and my prayers. She currently works at a hospital doing pic lines.
    Well, for six months they did bible studies together on Saturday via telephone. They finally decided to meet in person and had a meal together at a restaurant. And Jim eventually asked her for her hand in marriage and she agreed. He bought her a beautiful set of rings for her finger. And they will be married Hebrew style!
    The bottom line is that when people are down and out by making a mess of their lives, they need prayer and encouragement to change their lifestyle, and to be loved in spite of their condition. My gal friend was very instrumental in his deliverance from drugs, loneliness, and unworthiness as a family member.
    How great is our Elohim that he would use the likes of me to intervene in the life of a down and out personage whom I love in Messiah by showing love and concern rather than disdain and avoidance!

    Like

  2. Pingback: The Florida School Shooting And Billy Graham | God Running

  3. Pingback: Chapter 5: Love God First — From the new book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus) | God Running

  4. I’ve driven through the old PTL site in Fort Mill, SC. The location is pretty but the place is haunting and still has remains that point back towards peak PTL.

    Like

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