How often have we all made a judgement from a first impression, only to be wrong? No doubt, most of us have done this many times in our life. It may not always be an extreme, but there’s a reason they say you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Near the end of Paul’s journey, just such a judgement occurred.
When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. – Acts 28:3-6
Perhaps they saw that he was under guard but we know he wasn’t in chains or anything, he was out gathering wood for the fire. But simply because a poisonous snake had latched onto him from the wood, they instantly jumped to assuming he was a murderer (for only a murder would have such justice to escape the storm only to be killed by a random snake).
Ironically, just as fast as they made their first judgement of ‘he must be a murder’, they quickly changed to ‘he must be a god’. It took only minutes to go from the worst of the worst, to the best of the best.
As we’ve gone through our day, how often do we make a quick judgement based on nothing but a first impression? One area I have seen this happen over and over again is in judging a kid by their behavior. Not knowing anything about them, you see how they act and start making assumptions about them or their parents. We have witnessed just such a rash judgement on our kids on more than one occasion.
Five of our seven children are foster or adopted children. Our little girl (about to turn three) has a bit of anxiety and nervousness. One lady seeing this said would could possibly have gone on in a three year old’s life to create anxiety. There was a combination of shock and judgement. However, like the natives on Malta, she also quickly changed her thinking when she received one more piece of information. She was a foster child. This new news was enough to tell her, she had gone through significant trauma at such a young age.
It is natural for us to make rash judgments based on very little information. It’s why we always focus on making the ‘right first impression’. However, are we always just as quick to change that impression with new information? The lady and the natives of Malta were both open to change their judgment quickly with new information.
It’s OK and normal for you to make a judgment based on your first information, but it’s vital that you are just as quick to alter that judgment once there is new information. You just never know what’s behind the cover of that book unless you’re willing to open it and dive in.
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