Growing up, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was one of my favorite TV programs. I can still see King Friday XIII and Lady Elaine in the Neighborhood of Make Believe. I can hear Mr. Rogers singing his opening song asking me to be his neighbor while changing from his work shoes into sneakers and putting on a casual sweater.
Fred Rogers had a way with kids. His ability to be himself on camera and speak to children about real issues like fear, war, divorce, and other tough topics connected with children and made an impact. I can still hear the sounds of the trolley coming on-screen to take us to the land of make-believe. Fred Rogers is quoted as saying one of the greatest gifts you can give somebody is “the gift of your authentic self.”
So often, as Christians, we are not our authentic selves. We go to church and are one type of person and then come home and are someone else to our kids. Someone in public who seems happy and friendly to strangers then turns to her husband and is rude and impatient. It’s like we transport ourselves from the neighborhood of make-believe (real world) into the reality of home.
Reading John 1:14 in The Message made me think of good ‘ole Mr. Rogers. It says, “The word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” This, of course, is referring to Jesus coming to earth as God, yet entirely man. He moved into the neighborhood and was rejected by the very people with whom he should have had credibility. He made such a difference every place he traveled that no one was the same after being in his presence. People were healed, delivered, and set free from touching his robe. Power moved into the neighborhood when Jesus came to town.
The Bible says that the same power that raised Christ from the dead actually LIVES in us, as Christians. The power of God should be evident in our lives everywhere we go. If someone can’t look at our house and associate what moved into the neighborhood with Godliness, the fruit of the spirit, etc. then we are failing at our job as Christians. Just as Mr. Rogers was known in his community as a friendly, kind neighbor who showed respect to everyone from Mr. McFeely the delivery man to Handyman Negri and Lady Aberlin, we should be to those God has placed us among.
Greg and I are praying daily for the neighbors we will meet in our new city in Australia. Before we can speak to anyone about Jesus or invite them to church, they are going to know us as their neighbors. They will know how we treat each other and our kids. They will hear how we talk and whether we are “Negative Nelly’s” or full of life and positivity. Our goal is to serve those around us and have an impact through friendship and neighborly love. This will be pleasing to God and will make room for his Holy Spirit to move them toward a relationship with Him.
So in the words of Fred Rogers, I pray our neighbors will say:
“I’ve always wanted to have a neighbor just like you.
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.”