So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his (Paul's) hand, they said to one another, "No doubt this man is a murderer".
However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god. (Acts 28:4a & 6b NKJV)
Some parts of the bible make me afraid. Some parts cause me to ponder and reflect. And, admittedly, other parts make me laugh. Sadly, I find the latter part of the above scriptures to be quite humorous.
After the Apostle Paul and his entourage fell shipwrecked on an island called Malta, they were hurriedly and graciously received by its inhabitants. Despite the cold wind and swirling rain, a fire was successfully kindled for their survival.
As he stoked the fire, a viper lurched from the flames and latched onto Paul's hand. The locals instantly concluded that God's judgment was upon him, claiming: "Though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live". (4b)
Surely, he was a sinner to the highest exponent, a criminal to the worst degree. He had escaped death by drowning, avoided being crushed against the reef and endured exposure. But, now it was payback time. He would finally be brought to justice by this poisonous snake.
Based on what they saw, the people had set their mind switch to the 'guilty' position.
"He is a murderer!"
Soon they would be witness to Paul's execution by lethal injection. There would be no media attention. No demonstrations. No controversy. No cost to the state penal system. Just good, old-fashioned retribution, done nature's way.
Time passed. They watched, and they waited. More time passed. They gawked, and they gazed. He would certainly fall ill at any moment.
Seconds accumulated. Minutes added to hours. Eventually, a new assessment would have to be made because Paul was unfazed and remained completely unaffected by the snakebite.
I can picture these simple people huddling together as if drawing up a football play. Finally, in unison, they smiled and nodded. They reached to the center of their foreheads and flipped their switch to the 'innocent' position.
"He is a god!"
Does the analogy of having a switch in their foreheads sound comical? Isn't it easy to chuckle at their radical conclusion?
Well, before we laugh too hard at these folks, let's laugh at ourselves as well because we do the same; don't we?
Do we not often judge others, ourselves, or particular events based on what we see with our natural eye? And, are we not sometimes extreme in our assessments like these islanders were? How often do we flip our mind switch back and forth as circumstances change?
May we all learn godly discernment and balanced judgments and remember this suitable truth:
A double minded man is unstable in all of his ways. (James 1:8 KJV)
(This article was published in Pathway Christian Newspaper July 2011)