It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood.
I was driving through town with the windows down and the sun roof open and enjoying the cool air and thinking, “It’s a beautiful day…in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine?”
And now it’s probably in your head too. It is, of course, the theme song from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” It’s kind of a catchy tune written by the beloved Mr. Rogers himself. But the reason it was so sticky in our minds, so memorable, was the way he sang it. It was his rich, personal sincerity and disarming kindness.
When he sang those words, “I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,” we believed it. He genuinely wanted us all to be his neighbors. And so, in some sense, we were until he moved from this world in 2003. I am confident he would wants us to join him there, but that’s another blog post entirely.
That song, though…”won’t you be, won’t you please, please won’t you be my neighbor?”
It reminds me of a day when a young scholar in the Hebrew law was taking with Jesus. The young man answered Jesus’ question by reciting what we call the Great Commandment – to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10). But then the he asked Jesus a simple question.
“Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus then told a story about a man that was mugged and left for dead. The priest that came along conveniently crossed to the other side of the road and walked on by. The Levite, one of the tribe whose purpose it was to minister in the temple, did the same. But then there was a Samaritan. The Samaritans were geographical neighbors to the Jews with a common but, in the eyes of the Jews, polluted family history. Basically it was the last person one would expect to lift a finger to help a Jewish man.
The Samaritan helped him – cleansed and bound his wounds, He placed him upon his own animal and carried him to an inn where he paid the innkeeper to care for him.
So, was Jesus saying that we’re supposed to love those who help us when we’re in a jam? I don’t think so. I think he was saying that the Samaritan was our example – to go and be a genuine neighbor by caring for those with whom we come in contact…even when or maybe especially when they’re not like us.
The commandment wasn’t to make your neighbor like yourself. It was to love your neighbor like yourself. Christian, if we will go and be real neighbors to those that don’t look or act or think or vote or talk like us, maybe they will see Jesus in us and come to know Him. And then He will make the changes in them that He wants to make – from the inside out.
In other words, follow Mr. Rogers example – and genuinely, gently seek to be a neighbor to anyone and everyone. It is a beautiful day for a neighbor. No matter what your life looks like or how you see the world, would you be my neighbor?