My wife and I live in an area that is, under normal circumstances, a tourist destination, with beautiful mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway, quaint towns, and numerous opportunities for outdoor sports. As a result, many people decide it is an ideal place for a second home where they can retreat from wherever it is they live most of the time. Now, with the pandemic threat, these people are deciding these homes are ideal places in which to wait out the lockdowns and quarantines.
Imagine, in a time of great strain, or potential strain, on services such as hospitals and grocery stores, that your community is inundated with people who have every right to be here, but whose presence will just add to an already short supply of essentials and possibly pose a danger by bringing more infection. It is a perfect storm for fear, anger and resentment. The High Country is not alone in this. North Carolina’s Outer Banks, The Hamptons of New York, Martha’s Vineyard, and Hilton Head Island all are struggling with the tension between the permanent residents and those who come only for short stays. People with out-of-state license plates are being harassed at grocery stores, vilified in local online forums, and receiving death threats.
The other day, as my wife and I were driving around town, I found myself making comments about “out-of-towners” as I saw plates from other states. “Can’t they just stay home?” I asked. Later, as I read a post from a friend about the treatment of those out of state on the Outer Banks and a town council member calling for kindness toward those folks, the Lord convicted me. Although I wasn’t calling for anyone’s head, my attitude lacked grace for people unknown to me, as are their particular circumstances. I just painted a broad stroke of judgment over those not from around here.
The Apostle Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 as this: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” And then he adds, “Against such things there is no law.” In other words, there is never a reason for acting any differently if one is a follower of Jesus and filled with his Spirit. Including a pandemic.
This describes grace and God gives us an abundance of it. He treats us with love, gives us a sense of peace, is patient with us even as sinners. He is kind, good, faithful, and gentle toward us. And he doesn’t go off on us just because we do stupid or rebellious things. Not exactly what we are seeing in many locales around the nation. Not exactly what my recent attitudes conveyed.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to be his light, to embody his character in this world, particularly when people are experiencing a crisis and are in need. We may be frustrated by all the people who are flouting stay-at-home orders and fleeing to other places. Yes, it is stupid and selfish. They should stay home. However, if they end up in our towns and neighborhoods, we have no excuse to treat them badly because we are to treat others as we would want them to treat us. (Luke 6:31) And to treat them as the Lord treats us, even when we are stupid and selfish.
It’s called grace, and the need for it is abundant right now.
© Jim Musser 2020