We have come to take for granted the sanity of groups of people to express their displeasure and disagreement in peaceful ways in our culture. In the West were civility, common sense and intellectual agreement is taken for granted has suffered a blow in recent years and now in particular. Today we are seeing the destructive power of the assembled into the madness of crowds.
In God’s creation, in the history of humanity today’s issues were at one time yesterday’s issues. The stirring up of the people to madness is to be found in many places in Scripture. One of the most wicked and infamous crowds in the Bible is the crowd that used its voice along with Satan, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius . . . (Acts 19:23–24)
In Acts 19 we see Demetrius who instigated a what became a riot. People are doing the same thing today instigating riots and violence in the name of freedom, Christ and many others. It is evil to burn down someone else’s property or kill people. Demetrius made his living making idols in service of Artemis, the Ephesian fertility goddess, said to have been born in Ephesus. Several times a year, the Ephesians hosted month-long celebrations in her honor, with music, theater, banquets, athletic contests, and much more. So, when Paul showed up preaching the gospel, he ultimately hurt Demetrius business. He did not go after Paul himself or pursue legal action instead he assembled a tribe. Demetrius “gathered together” fellow craftsmen in similar trades” (Acts 19:25). He continued to find others losing money because of Paul and “The Way”. Demetrius knew the power of a mob, and he needed a small one to grow into a bigger one.
Most in the group had no clue why they were there. None were craftsmen, they did not know Demetrius’s but agreed that Artemis was great, yet what that had to do with taking hostage two Jews most could not tell. But they remained, aiding and abetting those who did know. Sound familiar, sound like the recent insurrection and all the excuses we keep hearing from people. Mobs are evil!
When Alexander showed up indicating he wanted to make a defense to the crowd, the group recognized that he was a Jew, so then for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.” (Acts 19:33–34) They shut him down. This clueless majority with no understanding of why they were there to begin with, knew they must shout down anyone who came to speak. Identity politics and cancel culture were on full display. Nothing is new.
So, we have the same thing today with all the different self-proclaimed truth tellers like Qanon, Trumpism, the Left, the middle, the Right and so forth. Mobs get caught up in general slogans, unspecified grievances, vague purposes for uniting, and no solutions for change other than destruction. With their rage as many get caught in the tide indicates something important is happening even if they have no idea what. The fervor of the group overwhelms the small voice of our conscience. Mobs and rioters are evil!
So, my point is nothing is new, and nothing has changed. Human sin works the same today and it did in Paul’s time. Christ is still the only hope for the world, the light of the world, his light still shines, and the darkness of our time with all its confusion has yet to overcome it. Our world is full of condemned masses, rabid with sin, following the devil and kinds of evil as they teeter on the edge of eternity and everlasting ruin. The reality is a narrow way still exists, it is a hard way and a dangerous way, yet the only way that leads to heaven.
The madness of crowds that accosted Paul set the stage for the madness of Christian love that had been displayed through the Cross: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
A time may or may not be coming (is the stage is being set now?) that Christians in the West will be treated as most Christians have been throughout church history. Should it come, we must decide beforehand, will we should our God call us be willing to face the mobs and persecution in the name of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit? Only those who know this world is not the end can do so