Summary: Neighbors. There are good ones and then those we wished would move. Have we become Neighborhaters? Can’t we get along?


I. Introduction

The colorful sweaters hand knitted by a mom for a colorblind son. The shoe change although thought to be a cute touch was really done because the tennis shoes were much more quite than the dress shoes on the set. The trolley. The life lessons. All the songs he sung, including the opener, were written by Mr. Rogers who was a gifted pianist who had a music degree. Mr. Rogers’ mild manner often disguised the fact that he was dropping truth bombs on children. In fact, unknown to many until recently as a new interest in this soft spoken man has brought it to light is that Mr. Rogers was a preacher. A licensed and ordained minister. He had simply moved his pulpit onto a quaint TV set made up to look like an inviting living room. His congregation had become little children all over the world.

The prevailing message from his show was about neighbors. The preaching was preceded by a special song that asked this question . . . "Won't you be my neighbor." He drove this message home by making statements like this . . .

"I believe that appreciation is a holy thing--that when we look for what's best in a person we happen to be with at the moment, we're doing what God does all the time. So in loving and appreciating our neighbor, we're participating in something sacred."

? Fred Rogers

He was preaching! Mr. Rogers learned the weekly lessons he taught children from the original Mr. Rogers . . . Jesus!Perhaps one of Jesus' most profound and relevant messages for today can be found in John 4 . . .

John 4:3-10; 25-26 (Message)

So Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee. To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.

A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.) The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.) Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.” “I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”

As I mentioned last week and as verified by this story the Jews avoided the Samaritans and vice versa. However, Jesus, as He was apt to do, went against social norms and makes His way into an unexpected place and speaks to this woman who for some reason is at a well at the wrong time of day and by herself. This has been thought to mean that not only was she an outcast to the Jews but perhaps to her own people. Maybe her lifestyle caused other women to shy away from her. Jesus being tired from His long walk asks for a drink. It is the exchange that takes place at this point that is our focus today.

Labels Linger

Notice that on His request for a drink the Samaritan woman instantly places a label of Jesus. She brings up that Jews are not supposed to be talking to Samaritans. She is simply taking a bias/prejudgement that had been passed down from generation to generation on both sides. Before there can be any meaningful interaction/introduction she applies this label of division and disdain and slapped it on this tired man simply asking for water.

I want you to think about this. She has never encountered Jesus before. He has never treated her cruelly. He has never called her a name. He has never sneered at her, belittled her, shamed her or in any way derided her. He simply asks a question. However, from one generation to another a label has been handed down. We must hate and avoid each other because that is the set and accepted/expected pattern of behavior.

This lady shows us that labels linger. Have you ever put a name tag or some other type of sticker on your shirt and then forget and wash the shirt without taking the label off? It leaves that goopy, gunky residue. That is what labels do. We may not even be aware of it labels leave residue behind. The label may have been forgotten or be out of sight for years and then out of nowhere we have an interaction and it resurfaces.

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