Monday, June 18, 2007

I Loved Jerry Falwell

Yeah, so I’m late. But I’d still like to pay tribute to the man who founded my alma mater and who loved Jesus Christ.

It’s basically true – folks either loathed Jerry or appreciated and loved him. Christians are no exception. A few Wednesday nights ago, when my pastor asked me about Jerry’s passing, a brother who was listening quickly voiced his overall disapproval with Jerry Falwell. I don’t remember his words, but I gathered that he thought of Jerry as more of a hindrance to the advancement of the Gospel than a help.

And, in the judgment of charity (although, at the time I was a little put off), I must say that I probably would have a few negative things to say at the death of Jerry Falwell too….had I never attended Liberty University.

I’ve become territorial now that my College Chancellor has left this world. Strange thing, maybe. I’m no Johnny-come-lately when it comes to criticizing Falwell’s theology or his appointments of seminary deans.

But, a few things place me squarely in the camp of Falwell admirers.

#1 - Jerry Falwell’s life was an outworking of his childlike love and passion for Jesus Christ. Yeah, he had that ‘swagger’ before the public eye that could be interpreted as crass Christian triumphalism. But, much of that was boldness borne out of a robust fear of God – not man. He was a man of integrity. He was not, in my opinion, a great theologian or a great expositor. He was a gifted speaker and motivator who always preached the exclusivity of Christ. For my Reformed brothers, don’t forget that it was F. Schaeffer who ‘nudged’ Jerry into the public square to bring Evangelicals out from behind 13 levels of separation from the world.

#2 – Jerry Falwell was truly loved by thousands upon thousands of those who had any acquaintance with him. Jerry was a pastor of a church, and he possessed rare pastoral qualities. He loved his people. He loved his students. He continued to perform weddings regularly until the end of his ministry, he spoke as a man who knew the human condition, he had a remarkable memory and capacity for names, and many other endearing characteristics. People listen to someone they love and trust. I am thankful to the Lord for the life and ministry of Jerry Falwell. Excellent tributes and commentary on this Christ-like man can be found in World magazine (find part of it here) and at Al Mohler’s website (here) and radio program (both from a few weeks ago).

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