When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer.” Acts 28:4
When it comes to Covid-19, everyone has their own idea of what’s right regarding masks, business closures, and now the vaccine. Opinions vary wildly and convictions often border on the religious, so conflict is inevitable. Families and friends find themselves at odds with each other over something they feel very strongly about. This has had the effect of further distancing us from each other at a time when we’re already isolated and stressed.
Unfortunately, I’ve fueled this conflict myself. I want schools and businesses to stay open, so I think we all need to take it seriously. To me, masking is a small price to pay to be able to keep education and the economy going. So, when I see people not wearing a mask then at the grocery store, I tend to be pretty judgmental. If I then see them suffering from Covid-19 later, there’s a small part of me that wants to gloat. At my worst, I hope they suffer a little more than average. I don’t want something really bad to happen, but if they’re miserable, I find myself thinking, They deserved it. In doing so, I foolishly and falsely make myself judge and jury over those around me.
This happened in today’s passage, not regarding a virus, but rather, a snake bite. In the story, the ship carrying Paul to Rome was shipwrecked on Malta, where the locals started a fire for the cold, wet travelers. When a serpent came out of a bundle of sticks and bit Paul’s hand, the locals pronounced judgment, proclaiming that Paul must be a murderer. When he didn’t die, they proclaimed him a god. Ignorantly, they used the bad and good things that happened to pronounce judgment upon him.
We need to be careful not to do the same. It’s not only that one kid’s fault that the entire football team had to be quarantined, missing the rest of the season. It’s not any one person’s fault that grandpa got Covid-19. This is a virus and it simply wreaks havoc. Sometimes our response to it is destructive as well. In the misery of the virus – and our response to it – it’s natural to pronounce judgment and wrath on those with whom we don’t see eye to eye.
It’s unnatural, but the right thing to do, to choose to be gracious, kind, and loving. This doesn’t mean we can’t disagree. We can and should think things through and we should stick to our convictions. It just means we should choose not to be judgmental jerks about it.