This article originally appeared in the November 18, 1988 issue of Christianity Today.
Without question, the public thinks of Billy Graham as "Mr. Clean." Even those with ideology and lifestyle 180 degrees from his consider him untainted. How does he do it?
Like so many other subjects, integrity is more easily recognized than defined or analyzed. It is easy to identify a person of integrity, but it is not so easy to pinpoint what makes him so. Billy Graham is "Mr. Clean" because he and his associates have determined that he will live beyond reproach. It's not merely a creed, but a commitment. Graham lives privately what he preaches publicly. He is consistent. What he believes, says, and does are the same. There is only one Billy Graham, not a public one and the private one.
Moreover, Graham has held himself accountable to his associates. We all need strong friends who will lovingly slam doors in our faces. Some of the most visible breaches of integrity this past year have come from a lack of accountability; no one was there to say, "I won't let you do this, because I care."
But integrity is what we do more than what we don't do, what we are more than what we are not. Those close to Graham will tell you he is who he is because he practices the presence of God, and it is this, more than the fear of public criticism, that keeps him in line.
In July of 1984 my wife and I were observers at Mission England, the Billy Graham crusades in Great Britain. While in Liverpool, I needed to talk with Graham for an hour or two concerning some matters at Christianity Today. Because of time restraints, he graciously invited Arlie and me to ride with Ruth and him to the next crusade site. We would leave immediately after the closing crusade in ...