Devotion: Wont you be my neighbor?
Matthew 22:37-40, “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.””
Although he died February 2003, some fifteen years later, the passion and love for Fred Rogers among those who watched his television show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” has not waned at all. In January (2018) the news that Tom Hanks will be portraying Fred Rogers in a coming biopic was met with frenzied glee. Americans also seem to love sharing myths about Fred Rogers, the friendly neighbor known the world over as Mister Rogers. Consider the one about how he wore cardigans to cover up his tattoos (false). Or the one that he was an ordained Presbyterian minister. That one is true—he graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1963—and it's far more foundational to Rogers's legacy than you might think. Rogers was a man defined by his Christian faith, and the message that he taught every day on his beloved children's show was shaped by it.
Rogers said over and over again: "You've made this day a special day by just your being you. There is no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are."
"I think everybody longs to be loved, and longs to know that he or she is lovable," he said in the 2003 documentary "America's Favorite Neighbor." Rogers echoed the sentiment of the biblical passage 1 John 4:10, "This is love: Not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." The focus is not just how important it is that you're loved, but also how vital it is to be loving.
That legacy, of loving your neighbor, is exactly why Fred Roger’s impact is so huge even to this day. It may seem so simple and yet it is so radical that it left an indelible mark upon those who watched his show. We sensed the generosity and love when Mr Rogers asked, “Wont you be my neighbor?”
Rogers said in a 2001 commencement address at Middlebury College: "When we look for what's best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we're doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor, we're participating in something truly sacred."
It may sound old-fashioned, but Mister Rogers's theology was radical in 1962 when his show debuted, and it remains radical today. That's why it resonated. That's why it's still necessary.
Let Mr Rogers legacy live on through us who love God enough to love our neighbor as ourselves. Wont you be my neighbor?
Prayer: Father God, we thank You for the love You first gave us through Jesus Your Son. Help us to share that love with those You have put in our lives. May our neighbors know we belong to You because of the love we give them. In Jesus name, amen.