It Is Who He Is
By Paul R. Blake
Generations of Americans grew up with PBS and shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the whole network came very close to dying an early death. In 1969, President Richard Nixon proposed halving the funding for the newly formed Corporation for Public Broadcasting, because why should there be such a thing as kids’ programming that isn’t one long barrage of advertisements for toys and snack food? The U.S. Senate held hearings to decide the matter, and someone was going to have to convince them to keep the funding in place, rather than use it to buy, say, on third of a new B-52 bomber.
During the hearing, a then-unknown kids’ show host named Fred Rogers stepped forward to give a statement on behalf of the philosophy behind his show and the channel in general. Mr. Rogers didn’t get emotional or worked up over it; he just calmly sat down for six minutes to have a heart-to-heart with the Senate about feelings and imagination. “We deal with such things as the inner drama of childhood. We don’t need to bop someone over the head to make drama over a scene; we deal with such things as getting a haircut or dealing with brothers and sisters … I give an expression of care each day to each child.”
At the beginning of the speech, Senator John Pastore seemed impatient, even making fun of Rogers in the first couple of minutes. But at the end, after Rogers shared a little song that he wrote, Pastore says, “I’m supposed to be a pretty tough guy and I’m getting goosebumps for the first time in days … looks like you just earned your $20 million.” And what happened then? Well, in D.C. they say that senator Pastore’s small heart grew three sizes that day.
That would not be the last time that Mr. Rogers would do something like this. In 1984, when the Supreme Court was considering outlawing home-recording technology, they decided not to at least partly because Rogers was worried that taking away VCRs would make it so that some kids who couldn’t watch his show at the scheduled time wouldn’t be able to watch it at all. The US Supreme Court thought that made perfect sense.
Then, when Burger King ran a commercial with a parody look-alike named “Mr. Rodney” in 1984, Rogers asked them to stop. The senior vice president of the company pulled the $15,000 ad without a second thought, saying, “Mr. Rogers is one guy you don’t want to mess with … hopefully now we have peace in the neighborhood.” He did not have a campaign or an agenda; he was not trying to get rich or hold power. He was just being himself, being a good man for its own sake.
Be a good person for its own sake. Be kind for its own sake. Have courage for its own sake. Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Do good works because good works need doing Of course it is commanded in God’s word, but if that is why you are doing it, you are simply practicing checklist Christianity. Our Father in heaven loves us because He loves us; that’s Who He is. He gives us gifts because He gives us gifts; that’s Who He is. He saves us because we need saving; that’s Who He is. If you do everything commanded in the Bible, you’ll be a good Pharisee. If you do those things commanded in the Bible because that’s who you choose to be, you’ll be like your Father in heaven while here on earth. Rom. 8:14 – “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:12-15). “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1John 3:1-2).
Eve Blaming the Serpent
“…How I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house…” (Acts 20:20). “Certainty about the great issues of the Christian faith and conduct is lacking all along the line. The outside observer sees us staggering on from gimmick to gimmick and stunt to stunt like so many drunks in a fog, not knowing at all where we are, or which way we should be going. Preaching is hazy; heads are muddled; hearts fret; doubts drain strength; uncertainty paralyzes action. We are much unlike the first Christians who, within a century, won the Roman world for Christ. … We lack certainty. Why is this? We blame the external pressures of modern secularism, but this is like Eve blaming the serpent. The real truth is that we have grieved the Spirit. For two generations our churches have suffered from a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. We stand under Divine judgment. That’s a tragic truth! (From J. I. Packer)
Damage From Within
“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29-30). Damage to the body of Christ usually comes from within rather than from without. When one cuts into an apple or, worse, bites into it, and finds a worm, the worm did not come from outside the apple but from the inside. An adult moth laid an egg in the heart of the flower. The egg was then incorporated into the ovary, and finally into the mature flower’s fruit, the apple. Thus, when you find a worm’s hole in the rind of the apple, the worm has already done its damage, and is off to pupate into an adult moth which lays more eggs in future flowers the same way. And, until the cycle can be broken by the farmer, much fruit will continue to be damaged.
Paul continues, “Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:31-32).