Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

11.28.23 Devo Image

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”—Mark 12:31(NIV)

Fred Rogers was a legend. 

When you think of America’s best neighbor, we all think of the inspiring Mister Rogers, who was the creator, a showrunner, and TV host for a wholesome preschool TV show for 33 years. Mister Rogers was also a Presbyterian minister who had a passion to teach children (and their parents) a thing or two about how to be a good neighbor and learning to see and love people despite their flaws. He taught how to forgive and how to go through life’s challenges. He also encouraged us all to love the way God created us and to find beauty in broken people.

First, love is a discipline and it takes practice to be disciplined. Before stepping into the neighborhood, Mister Rogers started his day reading the Bible and going for a swim.  This practice helped him visualize his daily encounters and prepared him spiritually to live out the Word when he interacted with people. What made him stand out was how much he deeply cared to truly connect with others. He knew God commanded him to love people even when they wanted to harm him. So, just like rehearsing a scene, he practiced discipline with people always with a smile on his face and even when it was painful to do.

Second, because we often focus on the “love your neighbor” part of this verse, we tend to neglect the “as yourself” portion. The verse doesn’t say to love your neighbor more than yourself. It’s impossible to unconditionally, generously, and genuinely love others when we don’t even treat ourselves with the same respect. We’re God’s masterpieces and we’ve been uniquely created in His image and likeness. The Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12 (NIV), “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” also validates this: Loving others depends on us loving ourselves well and knowing our boundaries.

Finally, our neighbors aren’t just the people living next door to us. They’re literally the people all around us—a co-worker, the mailman, the cashier at the local grocery store, the server at your favorite restaurant. Mister Rogers also knew this well and lived it on and off the screen. 

I didn’t know much about Mister Rogers until Tom Hanks starred in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019) portraying him. The film is inspired by a true story about his friendship with a cynical journalist from Esquire magazine, Tom Junod (renamed Lloyd Vogel in the film). It really wasn’t an act, Mister Rogers befriended someone who was not so neighborly. With Junod, he understood the concept of “hurt people hurt people” and embraced his ministry of loving the unlovable. Junod himself couldn’t fathom how a man of relentless kindness could take such interest in an unworthy fellow. Mister Rogers saw something special in Junod that Junod himself didn’t know he had. The two men were good friends until Roger’s death in 2003.  

There’s no challenge in loving those who love us, but when we love people at their worst then we’re truly honoring Jesus’ commandment. Loving people isn’t demanding or threatening them to change their ways. It’s beautiful when our love is patient and we allow people to simply journey through the messiness of life. There will be disappointments and painful moments when we have to state the truth or clarify boundaries, but our love must always hope for the best outcome. 

Pause: Meditate on 1 Corinthians 13. Replace the word love with your name. Do you agree?

Practice: Although our neighbors are everyone around us, we must start with being good neighbors to the people who live next to us. Check out the book Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon for practical ways of being a good neighbor.

Pray: Lord, thank You for unconditionally loving me. I want to be disciplined to learn how to be a loving neighbor to those around me. Help me process any hurt I may be holding on to so it’s not affecting how I treat others. I want to love especially when it isn’t reciprocated. Help me see through Your lenses. May love and mercy triumph over judgment. Amen.

About the Author

Alessandra Velsor

Alessandra (Ally) Velsor has been part of the Calvary Chapel staff since 2009. Because her family owned various restaurants growing up, she determined to do something else and got a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Communication. But… never say never…

She served in The Grill at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale for 14 years as a server, restaurant manager, and catering manager. She’s currently serving as the cafe supervisor in the Plantation campus. She met her husband, Kenny, working at The Grill and married him in 2011. They have two amazing children Joshua and Sunny.