I’ve never seen Annie Hall.
I have no idea what it is about. But I do know that it was directed by Woody Allen. I know who he is. So when Relevant Magazine posted an article about Woody interviewing evangelist Billy Graham, I thought it might be worth checking out.
It was strange to see the two of them so young, but they were still as sharp and quick as ever. The clips were taken from Woody Allen’s prime time TV show, an episode where he brought Billy Graham in do debate God, sex, and a myriad of different topics that they did not agree on. While seeing them both so youthful and spry was weird, I was more baffled by the answer that Billy gave to one of Woody’s questions.
Early in the interview, Woody looks to Billy and asks, “What is your favorite commandment?”
Now, I have no idea what Woody’s intentions were, beyond asking a question he thought was fitting for a Christian. Maybe he was poking at the idea that Christians are a bunch of spiritual hippies with lists of do’s and do not’s. Perhaps Woody wanted to ask about the peculiar nature of modern people adhering to ancient rules. Whatever his reason, I am stumped by Billy’s answer. It wasn’t a bad answer. But I thought it was sad that he didn’t answer in a better way.
What’s is your favorite commandment? Billy Graham’s answer: Honor your father and your mother.
He goes on to explain why this is his favorite, even saying why that is his favorite right now. At the time, he had 5 children and 3 grandchildren. And he liked seeing them respect and love him and his wife.
And to be perfectly fair, I like that commandment too. My two-year-old daughter is starting to explore her range of emotions and developing an attitude. If she could understand loving, respecting, and honoring her mother and myself, I would be a happy daddy.
But was that a good answer? It was fine, but it could have been better. I don’t think that would have been Jesus’ answer should Woody Allen have asked him that question. In fact, when someone did ask Jesus that He gave a much different answer. A better answer and the answer that I think should be the default answer for all Christians.
“One of the teachers of the law came and heard [Jesus and the Sadducees] debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:28-31
Love God, and love your neighbor. These are the two commands that are the most important. And that isn’t my opinion or Billy Graham’s opinion. That is what Jesus said. And it struck me as weird that this was not Billy’s answer. As a Christian, shouldn’t that be our answer? If Woody Allen was going to ask us that question, shouldn’t our answer line up with our Lord and Savior’s?
If we are going to be serious about a belief in Jesus, if we are going to live out the things that He taught, this should be our answer to the question. What is your favorite commandment? Which of the 613 laws is the one that you hold most dear? Jesus says it’s about loving God, being in a relationship with Him. And paired with that is the need to love the people around you. Love is to be at the centre of our faith. Love is the heart of every action that we take. Love is the very character of God. How is the love of God and love of our neighbours not the first and last things out of our mouths?
Have we, as a body of believers, removed ourselves from the heart of Jesus’ teaching so greatly?
I don’t mean any condemnation on Billy Graham. I am not attacking him, or calling him a bad Christian. I know that I have many things to learn from him and his living out the teachings of Jesus. His wisdom and experience dwarf me in profound ways.
But I believe that if we are going to see the world change, if people are going to see the gospel that Jesus taught lived out, it will not be because of a list of do’s and do not’s. They won’t understand why Jesus came, died on a cross, and rose from the grave because our favorite commandment is our parents and children. People will see and understand the gospel of Jesus when they see us loving God with everything in us, and loving our neighbors. Even if those neighbors haven’t seen Annie Hall.
I hope that if Woody Allen ever interviewed me, or any of you readers, that we would stick to what Jesus taught. That my answer to the question would be one of love.
To read the original Relevant Magazine article, follow this link.
To just watch the video clip that I was talking about, follow this link.