Showing Unusual Kindness

from Lynda Lindsey

The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. Acts 28:2-3

After a fierce storm Paul’s ship ran aground on the island of Malta. The islanders, in the rain and cold, built a fire for the shipwrecked men, showing them unusual kindness. The islanders, seeing a poisonous snake hanging from Paul’s hand, decided he must be a murderer escaped from the sea whom justice hadn’t allowed to live. Thus they expected Paul to swell up or suddenly fall dead from the snakebite. Paul suffered no harm and simply flung the viper into the fire. The islanders, changing their mind, then proclaimed Paul to be a god, for who but a god could survive poisonous snake venom coursing through one’s body?

A chief official on the island welcomed the shipwrecked men to his home and entertained them hospitably for three days. Paul, always vigilant to proclaim Christ,  prayed and healed not just the official’s ailing father, but others who came to him. The islanders honored Paul and the survivors in many ways, even outfitting them with supplies to continue their voyage to Rome. 

The islanders showed kindness and hospitality to Paul and those with him, yet they were a fickle crowd. But aren’t we also fickle when we encounter the unexplainable? These islanders, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit working through Paul, encountered Jesus. They were witnessing power like none they had ever seen before. They were up against the unexplainable and powerless to explain it. So, therefore, Paul was assigned the status of either a ne'er-do-well or a god. 

Paul showed kindness and hospitality to the superstitious citizens of Malta, but not in the way we usually think as demonstrating kindness.  Paul, a man, not a god, shared Jesus’ life, healing, and power with nonbelievers, and in so doing, offered them a place in God’s kingdom. Which is ultimately the highest kindness anyone can show another, and the most amazing!