I’m doing some research today for my Sunday sermon. One of the stories that I’ll tell in Sunday’s sermon is about Billy Graham’s encounter with gangster Mickey Cohen. Cohen was the most notorious gangster in Los Angeles in the 1940s. He eventually went to prison. Upon exiting prison in 1955 some extraordinary events took place in his life. Cohen was befriended by Bill Jones, a fomer criminal himself. Jones had come to Christ, and he told Cohen about Cohen’s need for Jesus. Cohen prayed to receive Christ. He would eventually fly to New York to go to a Billy Graham crusade. While there, the gangster became uncomfortable as Graham talked about what it means to truly follow Jesus as Lord. Cohen was not willing to live a life of surrender. He did want to get his picture taken with the famous evangelist, Billy Graham. So, he stuck around for the entire message, and after the crusade had his picture taken with Billy. As soon as he flew back to Los Angeles he quit hanging out with the two Christian men (Bill Jones and Jim Vaus, a former gangster that had worked for Cohen) that convinced him to go to the Graham crusade in the first place. When Bill Jones confronted Cohen about his renewed contact with the mob, Cohen said, “You never told me that I had to give up my career. You never told me that I had to give up my friends. There are Christian movie stars, Christian athletes, Christian businessmen. So what’s the matter with being a Christian gangster? If I have to give up all that – if that’s Christianity – count me out.”
I think there are a lot of people like Cohen in this world today. We’re probably all guilty of it to some extent. We want all of the benefits of being a Christian, but don’t want to pay the cost.
So, I was doing this research today when I ran across these two videos from youtube of Billy Graham being interviewed by Woody Allen years ago. These are fantastic! And, they illustrate just how difficult it is for some people to give up control of their own life and yield that control to God. Interesting that years later Woody Allen’s arrogance would destroy his own family as he ran off with his own adopted daughter. I’m praying that some day Woody will come to faith. There really is truth in what Graham says in this interviews. (The interview is in two parts. It won’t take more than 12 minutes to watch the entire thing.)