June 5, 2019
The story in Acts 28:1-6 reminds me of James 1:19: “Listen much, speak little and do not become angry.” It is dangerous to make a judgment before we have all of the facts. The people on the island of Malta found this to be true.
The Apostle Paul had just survived a shipwreck in which God used him to direct the captain’s decision-making so that no one drowned. When they reached the shore, the islanders welcomed them, built a fire and showed them kindness.
Typical of Paul, he gathered fuel for a fire. A snake driven out by the heat attached itself to Paul’s hand. The people knew it was a deadly creature and were sure that Paul would soon die. They said, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.”
As they watched to see what would happen, Paul suffered no ill effects. After a long time and seeing nothing happen to him, they changed their outlook “and said he was a god.” Their judgment shifted from “murderer” to “deity.”
The people on Malta judged before they had sufficient information ‒ a typical human response. Their culture and experience told them one thing, but the truth proved them wrong. They made a hasty evaluation that was not correct.
They then did what humans typically do when we make a wrong judgment – they overreacted, thinking Paul was a god. But that was not true, either. Humans can be creatures of extremes. Balance comes when we take time to hear the facts, measure them alongside truth, and respond with wisdom.
At this point in my life, it should be normal to demonstrate balance in my responses, but I admit that at times I jump to incorrect conclusions. Taking time to evaluate is important – and it saves a lot of hurt and confusion.
Pastor Bill Ehmann