Scripture: Acts 28:1-16
Key verse: (4) When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “This man must be a murderer; though he has escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.”
Reflection: How do you feel about fair weather fans? Are you a fair weather fan … you know, someone that is part of something only when things are going well, and then the moment the mood turns sour you hop out, distance yourself, disassociate all together? In our text for today in the final chapter of Acts, Paul meets some extreme fair weather fans. Paul, arrested by the Romans, is sailing toward Rome for trial when the ship wrecks and the passengers find themselves on the island of Malta. Warming up around a fire after a wet day Paul is bitten by a viper! Seeing Paul surely about to die, bitten by a poisonous snake, how do the natives of Malta respond? They exclaim, “This man must be a murderer; though he has escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live!” Paul was down and out, arrested, ship wrecked, and now has poison flowing through his veins and instead of helping Paul out, the fair weather fans of Malta pile on, accusing Paul of being a murderer. But … hold on tight, for this gloomy weather turns fairer quickly, for in fact Paul doesn’t die for the snake bite! The people of Malta turn course and they now proclaim Paul to be a god!
What extremes, right?! One moment Paul is labeled as a murderer deserving death and the next he is titled a god who is invincible! Where is the middle ground? Where is reason? Where is pausing to listen? It is interesting to continue the passage, however, and see that Paul is shipwrecked for three months on the island of Malta. I imagine in that time that Paul and the people of Malta moved passed this initial moment of extremes. I wonder if they came to understand each other in their everyday actions and lives, if they came to see the good and the bad in each other not in extremes but as real imperfect humans, perhaps even respecting each other. I’m not sure how the rest of Paul’s time on the island went, but he does describe the people there as showing “unusual kindness” (28:2).
In these times, in 2020, what would you find as “unusual kindness?” Would it be moving away from extremes, taking time to pause and listen, seeing someone for their good and bad, recognizing the humanness in all? Jesus is our great example of being faithful, rather than a fair weather fan. Reading the Gospel’s, we see Jesus stick with people in their good and bad, listen to their stories, and move past surface level judgments. May we follow in Christ’s footsteps, relying on his grace, that we too may ever be more faithful rather than fair weather fans.
Prayer: Loving God, we praise you for your unending faithfulness toward us. You don’t give up on us no matter how bad things get. Thank you for your love, your care, your unusual kindness. May we in turn show that love and kindness to others. Amen.
Author: John Magnuson
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].