In a very literal sense, I must confess that I never liked or appreciated Mr. Rogers. When my children were small, I would quickly turn the channel. I could not stand his sweetness. His gentleness and his soft-spoken-ness grated on me. We turned to something faster paced, funnier, more violent! I suppose (now in hindsight) that I resented Mr. Rogers because he was much of what I wasn’t and should have been.
In my professional life I have often advocated that the Christian Church ought to be more counter cultural. That we are missing our vocation to be a “peculiar people”. I espoused that we live more radically, more in line with the teachings of scripture.
Last night I had my eyes opened to see a truly counter cultural character. Linda and I went to see “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” and I met Fred Rogers! In the movie Mr. Rogers demonstrated amazing courage. He was not the namby pamby I had thought him. He could face any topic with a faith and humility that bespoke iron that, like Joseph, had entered his soul. In the face of hostility and ridicule he continued to love. In the teeth of fame and adulation he humbly continued to love. In the movie his love was especially evident towards the ‘unlovely’.
I realize now the things that repulsed me so many years ago are the very characteristics I so admire about Jesus. It shames me to think that as a Jesus follower, I was so antagonistic to these Christ-like attributes. Last night I had an epiphany (Isn’t it wonderful that at any stage or age God can reveal new truth?), that persistent gentle love is the best tool in our evangelistic tool kit.
Eloquence, bombast, and dramatic presentation pale in effectiveness compared to the unrelenting gentleness of love.
I have no intention of making Mr. Rogers an idol. I do want to follow him, though, as I see him following Christ. I’m glad for the chance to sit with my grandson and watch Daniel Tiger (Mr. Rogers for this generation) and know that I’m making some progress.
I do recommend this movie. Please know I have not given the story away in this writing. In Mr. Rogers we recognize someone who is truly counter cultural, while I have been merely counter cultural-ish.
The call to live out the Sermon on the Mount is ours, as Christ followers, and we need more clear examples of how we might do this. I would like to be but Fred Rogers surely was!