And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31-32 ESV
When I was a young man I worked as a tree surgeon for many years. We tree climbers were a unique breed who loved working outdoors, had an unhealthy desire to risk life and limb (no pun intended) and to a man we all hated tree paint! “Tree paint?” you might ask. “What in the world is that?” Well try to imagine the contents of the La Brea Tarpits where the dinosaurs died and imagine further it being packed into cans with short brushes. Yup – those were our paint pots and we carried them everywhere throughout every tree we pruned. The rule was that every cut we made larger than a quarter must be slathered with that sticky black stuff. We got tree paint in our hair (No fun getting that out at night). It also ruined every shirt, pair of jeans and work boots and even worked its way into some rather private locations! But somewhere in the late 1970’s one wonderful scientist found out something that was the best discovery since chocolate: tree paint didn’t work! Yes! You heard it right. The very stuff we had been carrying out to the furthest limbs of the biggest trees actually didn’t do a thing! The day our boss came in with the news, he phrased it like this, “Even though we know this doesn’t help the trees, our customers are so used to seeing it that we may need to phase it out gradually.” Most of the men laughed, then cheered, and went out back of the shop and gleefully tossed their tar pots into the dumpster!
That scene from years ago reminded me of the news the other day that those of us who are fully vaccinated pretty much aren’t going to need our masks anymore, especially outside. Here in Florida with temperatures climbing into the 90’s that is great news indeed! I am just grateful that we are nearing the end of this terrible pandemic and am not shy about tossing the memories of empty streets and full emergency rooms, along with some of my worn out masks right into the dumpster! But there are a lot of people still very afraid – just like our customers and they will need time to adjust. We do need to be thoughtful as we slowly get back to normal, because following Jesus means being thoughtful and that includes being kind and loving all our neighbors!