When the NAACP Came to Lunch

Recently, I hosted 20 representatives of the NAACP for lunch at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., and while it wasn't exactly a "Sunday picnic," it was a remarkable and important experience. I came away with a better understanding of our differences -- and our areas of agreement -- and a commitment to work together on important challenges in our country.

I expressed outrage at the killing of Christians in South Sudan; they were indignant about the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. I said I couldn't support a candidate of any party who supported the right to abortion and same-sex marriage; they urged white evangelicals to expand our objection to these two issues to include opposition to injustice, racism, the plight of the poor and other very real social problems.

These men and women traveled from across my state and from Baltimore, Dallas and San Francisco to meet with me, and I was honored by their visit and encouraged by our conversation and the spirit of cooperation I felt. We expressed love for the same Son of God, Jesus Christ, and agreed to work through tough questions of how He would have us tackle issues of injustice, which, humanly speaking, often seem hopeless.

After speaking about the religiously motivated slaughter in Sudan over the past decade, I had to admit I didn't know much about the cold killing of an unarmed teenager in Florida last month. I do now, and hope and pray a thorough investigation will resolve what went wrong during a rainy-night Neighborhood Watch patrol -- and that justice will carry the day. It will likely take more time and information to determine if there was a racial injustice that Feb. 26 night, but it takes no time to conclude there was an injustice, one that snuffed out the earthly life of Trayvon after 17 short years.

As president of Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief organization, I have been focused on serving victims of war, disease, poverty and natural disasters in places like Uganda, Egypt, Kosovo and Haiti. Here in the U.S. we've responded to devastating tornadoes and hurricanes that have ripped apart our communities. These natural disasters take their toll on lives with no regard to race, religion or socioeconomic status. We likewise respond with hope and aid to all.

The late Bob Pierce, founder of Samaritan's Purse and a mentor to me, once said, "I want to be broken by the things that break the heart of God." That has long been my desire, and now I want to be more in tune with anything that breaks the heart of God -- from the killing of 4,000 babies in the womb every day to the murder of 17 innocent Afghans by an Army Staff Sergeant or a black high school student returning from a mission to buy Skittles and iced tea. All of these victims are precious in the sight of God, who actually created them.

I want my eyes to continue to be opened to cries for help I might not have noticed before. According to recent reports, 90 million working families experience hunger, and while we can't solve all the world's problems -- or even our own -- we seem to find a way to do lots of things we want to do. For example, Americans throw away one-third of all the food we purchase each year. Surely we can do better.

But there is also a spiritual poverty in our nation. We've taken our eyes off God and we now look to the government to solve our problems. I can assure you that God cares about all issues of poverty, and He hears our cries when we turn our faith toward Him. Poverty alone is mentioned some 2,000 times in the Bible. In the very same verse where we are commanded to "love God," we are instructed to also "love our neighbor" (Luke 10:27). I may not live in Sanford, Fla., but Trayvon Martin was made in the image of God and was my neighbor -- and yours.

The Old Testament prophet Amos condemned the people of Israel who were misusing their wealth,instructing them to "see that justice is done." He continues with a plea to "let justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry." While tensions continue to run high in this country around the subject of race, I'm convinced the only color that ultimately matters to God is red, the color of the blood His Son shed to redeem those of us who are white, black, brown or yellow. It is this blood that carries the hope for all mankind.

Franklin Graham is president/CEO of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. His meeting with NAACP representatives took place on March 20, 2012, at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C.