Mister Rogers and the Syrian Crisis

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,                                                                          A beautiful day for a neighbor,

Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
Won’t you please, won’t you please,

Please won’t you be my neighbor?

These lyrics are from the song “Won’t You be my1amisterrogers2 Neighbor?” that was sung at the beginning of every episode of the children’s program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. While singing this song, host Fred Rogers would enter his make-believe neighborhood house, hang up his coat, put on a cardigan zipper sweater, remove his dress shoes, and put on a pair of blue sneakers. The showed debuted as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in 1966.

For decades Rogers influenced children to be neighborly, to be kind and loving toward others no matter who they are or where they are from. Rogers’ idea of neighborliness is not new. In fact, it is rather ancient.

Long before Rogers adorned the cardigan zipper sweater and blue sneakers, Jesus walked the dusty roads of Israel calling the people of his day to show the same kind of kindness and love no matter who the individual is or where they are from. On one particular day when a religious leader was trying to make himself look good in front of others, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replies, not with a song like Rogers, but with a story much more jolting, the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). As the story is told by our Lord, a man is robbed and left for dead. First, on two different occasions two religious leaders see the wounded man, ignore his needs and avoid him altogether. A third man, as Jesus describes, a Samaritan, sees the injured man and has compassion for him, a compassion that leads to action. He cares for the man by providing for his needs.

Jesus, then, sets the trap by asking the religious man which individual was a neighbor to the wounded man. He is forced to answer, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Why is this story such a shock to all that may have heard it and even us today?

Love of neighbor as Jesus followers is not restricted to ethnicity or geography or even religion. The most unlikely person to show love and mercy in Jesus’ story is the Samaritan. To the Jew, the Samaritan was the enemy, the one hated and despised. Yet, regardless of his ethnicity, homeland, or religion, the Samaritan is the one who showed mercy and love to the man in need.  Jesus closes his encounter with this self-righteous leader by telling him, “Go and do the same.”

Iraq -25In recent days there has been a flood of responses related to the Syrian crisis. Fear and cruelty mark many of the responses. Yet, let us remember, for those who follow Jesus, we can’t check our “love and mercy card” at the door for the sake of national security. While securing our borders is an important issue (and one that needs our attention), the gospel trumps all issues and calls us to be a people that love the vulnerable and hurting regardless of ethnicity, geography, or religion. The gospel of Jesus is for people from every tongue, tribe and nation (Rev 5:9). The gospel is for Americans and Syrians, for Iranians and Nigerians, for all peoples of the world.

While Jesus followers are not commanded to wear cardigan zipper sweaters (thank goodness) or blue sneakers, we are commanded to wear kindness, compassion, and love. For the sake of gospel impact, Jesus followers must sing,

“Won’t you please, won’t you please,                                                                        Please won’t you be my neighbor?”

Let us go and do the same.



A sign leading into Yankton, South Dakota reads, “Yankton, S. D. The Home of 30,000 Friendly People and a Few Sore-heads.”  We understand the sign, because we all know a few soreheads.

Grumbling and complaining are rarely labeled as being a problem.  Grumbling is not one of grumpy-manthe seven deadly sins.  To my knowledge, there are no Grumbler’s Anonymous Groups.  For most of us, grumbling comes rather naturally.  We complain about traffic and lines at Wal-Mart.  We moan about politicians and telemarketers.  We gripe about church and our spiritual leaders.  It almost seems to be a natural part of our genetic wiring, and, for this reason, many view it as being rather harmless.

However, our natural pastime of grumbling is far from harmless.  Read the book of Numbers.  One of the problems that plagued God’s people, in the wilderness, was their tendency to be consumed by complaints.  Numbers 11:1 says clearly, “Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused.”  In this passage, Scripture teaches us that grumbling flows from a sinful nature.

Grumbling is a deadly disease within the family of faith.  It is contagious and spreads easily.  It will steal our spiritual health and defile our unity.  It cheapens the blessings of God.  It distorts your vision.  It entices you to live in a distorted past.  It ignores God’s promises for the future. Complaining discourages God’s leaders.  It consumes our time and energy.  It steals our peace in Christ and the joy of our salvation.  Grumbling always hurts the body of Christ, and our ability to fulfill God’s calling on our lives.


Grumbling always flows from a self-focus.  It is about what I want, and puts the emphasis on “Me.”  Faith puts the spotlight on God and His will.

Through Jesus Christ, we have been set free from the power of sin, including the sin of grumbling.  Many of our churches would be far healthier, if you and I were known as those who encourage rather than those who complain.

How can we be set free from this destructive, critical spirit that divides and wounds?  Here is some wisdom from the book of Numbers that guards us from succumbing to grumbling:

  • Keep your focus on God.
  • Move ahead in faith.
  • Celebrate the lessons learned from the past, but do not desire to return to the past.
  • Enjoy the blessings of today.
  • Be thankful for His gracious gifts in your life.
  • Rest in His promises for tomorrow.
  • Remember that we will soon be home in the land that God has promised us.

I have learned that if I look up and keep in step with the One who goes before me, it is amazing that I do not have time to waste my days in grumbling and in longing for what has been left behind.

interSEED for our Kentucky Missionaries

interSEED BookmarkDuring this month of November people all over Facebook are sharing their “30 Days of Thankfulness.”  One thing I thank God for is the nearly 100 missionaries that serve in various roles across Kentucky.  Many have left their homes and moved to new locations, while others are serving right in their home communities.  All have a heart for the people of Kentucky and a love for the Lord.  They work tirelessly at meeting the physical needs of those they serve and share the Gospel of Christ to those who need to know His love.  Theirs is not an easy job, but is so rewarding.

As I travel around the state and meet with these missionaries I find many of them tired, some discouraged, lonely, and dealing with a variety of issues.  They are in need of someone just to talk with and love them.  They are in need of rest.  They are in need of someone to pray for and with them.  Would you commit to “interSEED” for these missionaries?

Pray for the missionaries to have strength to do the work they have been called to do.  Most all of them work long hours, days without a break, and without enough help.  Pray for co-laborers to come alongside and share in the work.

Pray for the missionaries’ families, their children, their marriages to remain strong.

Pray for their physical, mental, and emotional health.

Pray for safety.  Yes, even in Kentucky, many are serving in dangerous areas.

Pray for both personal and ministry finances.  All of these missionaries are self-funded and often find support very lean.

Most of all pray for them spiritually.  Pray that the missionaries have a personal, intimate, growing relationship with the Lord.  Pray that they are bold in their witness and that they are a shining example of Christ.  Pray for mentors and support groups.  Pray that the missionaries are surrounded by other strong Christians and get connected to a strong, supporting church family.

One way to pray for the missionaries is through interSEED.  Each month download the prayer calendar (www.kybaptist.org/interseed) and pray for the missionaries on their birthdays.  To pray on a more consistent basis go to www.kybaptist.org/missionaries for a complete list of those serving in Kentucky.  You might also consider “adopting” a Kentucky missionary through our “adopt-a-missionary” program.

As you spend time in prayer each day don’t forget to thank God for those missionaries serving in our state and pray for them to stand strong in their service.