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I don’t think Luke the physician was trying to be funny. Nonetheless, I hear “rim-shots” after some of the verses in Acts 28.

For instance, in Acts 28:4, the residents of Malta viciously slander the apostle Paul: “No doubt,” they hiss, “this man is a murderer!” (NKJV). A few verses later, in Acts 28:6, this same crowd breathlessly announces: “He is a god!”

The dark humor, of course, is that Paul is faced with the extremes of either accusation or adulation; he is either being aggressively denounced or openly flattered by the very same people!

This schizophrenic reaction, it seems to me, is a common experience of leaders who are leading in an optimal way. We should expect both sabotage and seduction.

My daughters, when they were still at home, were perfect examples of this. My eldest always tested her father as the saboteur. “No, Daddy,” she would say, putting her foot down, “I won’t!” In contrast, the younger one would typically attempt to butter me up: “Oh Daddy,” batting her eyes, “Really? Please?”

When we meet these responses to our leadership, it is usually not a sign that our followers are evil or fundamentally opposed to us; rather, they (and the Lord) are testing our character and resolve. As leaders, our best position is to be connected to followers while not being “fused” with them; to be differentiated, while not being disengaged. 

Saboteurs and seducers tempt us to become reactive and defensive, but most respond positively when we are open, available to listen and patient, but always clear about the mission.

Let us pray this prayer: “Lord, help us to ‘shake off the vipers’ of our own insecurity and fear, and proceed confidently in the direction of Your call, even if it leads us, as it did Paul, into the misunderstood territory of the dangerous unknown.”

By: Sam Rockwell, Gateway District Supervisor

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is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Orlando, Fla.