by Phil Baker
It was 50 years ago that Fred Rogers first asked us to be his neighbor. For the next 33 years, the Presbyterian minister-turned PBS icon welcomed us into his home with a song as he donned a sweater and comfy sneakers. Then he proceeded to teach us without the slightest hint of judgment or condescension. We felt welcomed to be there. His gentle nature made us feel this was a safe place and that we were loved.
Mr. Rogers wanted to be our neighbor. He wanted us to be his neighbor. Did he mean he wanted everyone to move to Pittsburg? I mean, we all can’t live next door. Mr. McFeely would never be able to deliver all our mail! No. He was just reminding us of Jesus’ teachings about what it means to be a neighbor.
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Being a neighbor has little to do with geographic location. According to Jesus, it has everything to do with how you treat everyone else. Being a neighbor means showing love. Being a neighbor means spreading joy and peace. It means having patience, showing kindness, being faithful. It means being a friend to everyone regardless of race, creed or economic status.
As we begin this new chapter of Revive church’s outreach efforts, let’s not get hung up on who our literal neighbors are. Instead, put on your Mr. Rogers sweater and comfy shoes and focus on the person in front of us in the moment. Who is sitting next to you right now? Who’s Facebook page did you just look at? Who is behind you in the check-out line?
Who is you neighbor?