If only for a moment, the internet became a warm place earlier this week. It traded its characteristically dim demeanor for that of a friendly neighborhood.
The shift corresponded with the release of the first trailer of Sony Pictures’ “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” a biopic about Fred Rogers, one of the most beloved entertainment icons in America and host of the children’s TV series, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
A native of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Rogers — played by actor Tom Hanks in the forthcoming film — died in 2003. But his legacy of kindness has long surpassed him. Rogers, though, wasn’t just benevolent for benevolence’s sake; his commitment to goodwill was likely catalyzed by his faith.
The famed PBS show host was an ordained Presbyterian minister, and as such, was committed to treating those around him as image bearers of God, particularly children.
Over the course of his career, Rogers didn’t often specifically reference his faith. But during an interview many years ago with Charlie Rose, Rogers credited Jesus for his commitment for reaching children.
“Jesus said to the people around him, ‘Please, let the little children come up here. I want to learn from them,’” he explained, a reference to Matthew 19. “He might not have said those words, but I think that’s what he meant. I want to be involved with these innocent people who make up the Kingdom of Heaven.”
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 3He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
It seemed that, even though he’d lived a good life full of good deeds, Rogers was keenly aware that his kindness isn’t enough to earn salvation. Jesus’ sacrifice is the one and only path to forgiveness and peace.
That sacrifice — and our trust in it — should then compel us, though, to live a life full of kindness. That benevolence is dynamic and mysteriously attractive.
It draws us in. Mister Rogers displayed what it means to put his faith into action. His was a ministry of benevolence, and it’s still alive and well today.
“Mister Rogers Neighborhood” hits theaters Nov. 22.