People are People
It can be hard to admit, but the people around us can and will hurt us. This pain is inevitable. As Otto Von Bismarck puts it, “No struggle. No life!” Pain is part of what makes us human.
The apostle Paul knows this fact, but holds fast to his mission, regardless of the pain that it might bring. In the passage from the book of Acts, mentioned above, he offers several pieces of advice on how to handle all sorts of people. When we do what we do as Christians, which is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and make disciples of all nations, we can’t help but meet all kinds of people. Paul knows that and offers the following guidance:
When we do what we do as Christians, which is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and make disciples of all nations, we can’t help but meet all kinds of people.
1. Look for the good in all
Even though Paul was a prisoner when he arrived in the city of Malta, people showed him hospitality. The scriptures say that “the local inhabitants showed us extraordinary kindness for they built a fire and welcomed us all because it had started to rain and was cold.” If you had experienced the type of pain that Paul had at the hands of others, you might be forgiven for thinking that the people of this strange town would not have his best interests in mind. I imagine that Paul was more than a little surprised by the people’s care for his needs. Accepting the good at hand means that you allow yourself to see the good in people in any situation. Once we’ve mastered this, even the worst kind of people won’t keep us from doing what we’re supposed to be doing.
The same people, who had moments ago shown extraordinary hospitality, were now quick to judge Paul.
2. ALWAYS do the right thing
As Paul steps in to help his hosts build a fire, he encounters another hardship. And it’s not just a simple thing at hand - a snake has wrapped itself around his arms. The same people, who had moments ago shown extraordinary hospitality, were now quick to judge Paul. They said, “No doubt that this man is a murderer! Although he has escaped from the sea, Justice herself has not allowed him to live.” But Paul did not let the people around him keep him from the knowledge that God had more planned for him. So he “shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm”. People will say and claim to know a lot of things. As a follower of God, do what needs to be done regardless of what others might say. We follow God’s voice when we shake the snake of preconceived notions and judgment off our arms.
3. Leave them be
After Paul survives his encounter with the snake they regarded him as a “god”. We hear absurd things from people all the time. Unlike most of us, however, Paul doesn’t dwell on the words of the people of Malta. He is neither discouraged nor tempted by a sense of his own self-importance. He remains focused on his task of showing the love of God to others. There may come a point in our lives when we must leave certain people be. Only then can we focus on the task at hand that God has given us.
Discussion Question: What have been some of the most difficult interactions you have had with others?