Dear West Family
It has been a while since I have truly laughed out loud at something that I just read. To be fair, I do respond to many things with an “LOL” but everyone knows those aren’t literal laughs of the out loud variety, they are just code for, “I acknowledge that I have seen the moderately funny meme/GIF/video/pic/joke you just sent me.” But, the other day, I genuinely laughed out loud, while I was reading the Bible, and it took me and the poor patrons at Summer Moon by surprise.
The text I was reading was from Acts 28 (I have been stuck in Acts for a while) and deals with Paul washing up on the shores of Malta after suffering what is most likely his third, and some say maybe his fourth, shipwreck. Shipwrecks aren’t funny, and so I didn’t laugh at that. Snake bites aren’t funny either, although the telling of Paul getting bitten by a viper while he is gathering wood having just survived said shipwreck does have a definite tragic comedy element to it. It wasn’t the misfortunes of Paul that caused me to laugh.
I laughed at the people of Malta. That’s right, I enjoyed hilarity at the expense of the humble Maltese folk. What is it about them in this account that is so funny? Look at verse 4 to 6.
4 When the local people saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “This man, no doubt, is a murderer. Even though he has escaped the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 But he shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 They expected that he would begin to swell up or suddenly drop dead. After they waited a long time and saw nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god. — Acts 28:4-6 (CSB)
Luke records the responses of the locals in Malta for our benefit and it is a brilliantly helpful insight into human nature when we are making judgments about people we don’t know well.
“He is a murderer … no doubt about it.”
“I think he is a god.”
“Yip…god…no doubt about it.”
It is ridiculous when you see it so starkly portrayed. Imagine if Paul had let his confidence in who he was in Christ wax and wane with the public opinion about him? And yet, that is exactly what I am tempted to do, and what many of us struggle with as well. In our hyperconnected but very casually related world of relationships, many of us give permission to people who don’t know us well, don’t love us well, and don’t have insight into who we really are, determine so much of how we feel about ourselves. It is insane.
I walked away from this text with a triple threat set of implications.
- Be aware of the human tendency to either worship or demonize people. Most people are complex combinations of good and bad things, beautiful and ugly things, selfless and selfish things. Leave space for people to be complex people. Worship Christ. Demonize demons. Love people.
- Don’t judge people you don’t know based on the very small data points you have about them. You just don’t know the many varied things they have experienced or are experiencing.
- Don’t base your sense of worth off of what other people (especially people who don’t know you and love you) think about you. They are probably wrong, whether they are worshipping you or demonizing you. Rest in the finished work of Christ who knows you, all of you, and loves you all the same. That is a way more certain thing to base your security in.
Have a spectacular weekend, you wonderful, complex, deeply loved people.