FROM VILLAIN TO HERO
“And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.” Acts 28:3-6
Paul and those he traveled with, destined for Rome, were shipwrecked on the island of Melita. Luke records that Paul was gathering sticks for the fire when a viper bit him. “The barbarians” that witnessed it initially said, “No doubt this man is a murderer.” After further review, and realizing that Paul was not affected by the venomous snakebite, they “changed their minds, and said that he was a god.”
In a few moments time, their opinion of Paul greatly changed. They were actually wrong on both counts. First, they misjudged the man of God and thought he must be some evil person since the snake chose to bite him. Next, they wanted to deify him because he was not harmed by the bite. Both opinions were overreactions. Their behavior reminds us of how quickly the opinions of men, like the wind, can change directions.
We need to be careful not to judge people or situations too quickly. As with Paul, things are not always as they appear. Because someone is the subject of great affliction or persecution does not mean he is out of God’s will or living in sin. Some of our greatest examples of Christians were those who endured trials that were not caused by their disobedience, but rather, were caused by their commitment to obey God’s Word. Similarly, we should not elevate those we respect or admire to a higher place than what God gives them in His Word.
I am thankful for the way the Lord has used men and women to help me in my spiritual journey. I have admired the resiliency and faithfulness of God’s saints when attacked and ridiculed, but they are not gods. All of us are imperfect creatures; we all make mistakes. Let’s be careful not to get out of balance in either direction when it comes to our estimation of others.