CINCINNATI – Billy Graham picked the right time to come to Cincinnati, the right message to make an impact, one of the city’s African-American leaders remembered Wednesday.
It was 2002 and Cincinnati was in need of healing after riots followed the deadly shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer a year earlier.
“We told him there would be a condition and that condition was that he would finally say that racism is a sin," the Rev. Damon Lynch of New Jerusalem Baptist Church said.
Lynch said he prayed with Graham in his hotel room before Graham spoke on the first of four nights at Paul Brown Stadium.
“He said tonight's the night and that stadium was full. It was a record that night,” Lynch said.
Graham delivered a lesson that the city needed to hear. It came from the Gospel of Luke 10:25-37 - the parable of the Good Samaritan.
“Listen to this," Graham told the crowd, "the Samaritan was another race, he was another religion. He could have felt no responsibility, but he did.
“Here in Cincinnati, you have to be a real neighbor to the person next to you, that you live in this city with. Whether the color of your skin is dark, or whether it is light, we have to love each other, work together,” Graham said.
“He told it like it was,” Lynch said, “telling what the Bible says - God has no respected persons, there are no special people for God. Stuff that we say all the time, but when you say it on the national stage, a lot of people don't want to feel.”
That’s what Lynch remembered on the day Graham died at age 99 - what Graham said as a preacher and a person.
“The point is, if you're not living what you're preaching, what are you?” said Lynch.