For my birthday Jason and I rented Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the recent documentary about Fred Rogers’ life. Most of us knew him as Mister Rogers from his children’s show, with the same name, on PBS. I was reduced to tears halfway through the film, seeing this man fight for goodness in a culture hell bent on being hell bent. Mister Rogers was a counter-cultural show, and relevant at the same time.
He purposely talked slower, keeping a quiet pace for his viewers, in reaction to the fast moving, in-your-face entertainment catered toward young consumers. Mister Rogers never dumbed down his message but instead spoke directly to children as people, not half-human martians. He also addressed the current issues of his day with subjects about assassination, politics and race. It was never overt but more like a gentle conversation, leading by example.
The documentary shows how Fred Rogers used his life to display kindness to all people. In essence, he saw every person with inherent value, choosing to treat others with dignity. Mister Rogers demonstrated what it means to show grace in an angry world. It’s a good lesson for Christians too.
It doesn’t mean we ignore the wickedness of our time, but first view each person as an image-bearer in need of God’s salvation and grace.
We start the good fight here, not for external moralism, but compassion for heart transformation. The greater war within each of us is spiritual. A person, a people, a nation cannot change without the inner man being renewed.
It is so easy to become disheartened in our current climate, to watch evil win. When everyone does what is right in his own eyes sin will prevail. We do what we want under the disguise of “tolerance” to justify our sin. Helplessness sets in for the Christian so we keep our heads down.
But Fred Rogers bravely and publicly lived out his conviction to reach children with the hope of transforming the next generation from hate to love, anger to kindness. And yet we go a step further because it isn’t enough. Outward change only results from inner change first. We operate out of our own regenerated hearts before engaging in spiritual battles/culture wars. Only then can we approach others from a place of sincerity and live out the Gospel message.
Friends, don’t grow weary in doing good. Even with mass chaos in our world we have the invaluable gift of giving the lost what they need most- Hope. We are the Light Bearers to darkness.
Remember who you are in Jesus Christ and fight the good fight right in your own neighborhood.
Grace upon grace,