But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd
The scene in Acts 17 looks like today’s evening news. Paul according to his usual custom went to the Synagogue when he arrived in town and demonstrated to the local Jews, from the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus was their messiah. He was successful in convincing some of them, which angered other Jews who then formed a mob and started a riot.
Question: If the angry Jews didn’t like that Paul was convincing some of their people to believe the gospel, why didn’t they refute Paul’s teaching instead of resorting to rioting and violence?
Answer: They we’re not concerned for the truth or for their fellow Jews. They were angry. They were filled with rage and violence and their evil jealous hearts were controlled by Satan.
Tell me if this looks familiar. These rioters stirred up the crowd and went to the local politicians and lied and manipulated them into siding with them. They did this because of their personal hatred for what they believed to be a false religion. They accused Paul and his friends of causing trouble and breaking Roman law, but they themselves were the real troublemakers and lawbreakers! These men, who would have readily argued for the virtue of their cause were more than willing to lie and incite violence for their “righteous” cause. The situation became so dangerous that Paul and Silas had to be smuggled out of the city under the cover of night.
This story is being played out all over the US. Angry and violent people are rioting, looting, hurting and innocent people are even dying, and they have the support of politicians and community leaders. But, if they were concerned about the truth and the people they claim to be standing up for, would they destroy these people’s communities? Would they loot their businesses? Would they need to hide behind a masked mob and lash out at the people and communities they claim to be serving?
I’ve listened to people on the news defend the violent and criminal actions of mobsters because of they believe their actions are justified by their noble cause. But this defies logic. Noble causes are defended by noble actions. Violence is the fruit of violent hearts. Right motives produce righteous behaviour and evil hides under a cloak and behind a mask.
Don’t misunderstand me here. I believe that intolerance, whether motivated by religious hatred or racism is evil. I believe unequivocally that the actions of the police officer resulting in the death of George Floyd were deplorable and demonstrated a wanton disregard for Mr. Floyd’s well-being and his value as a being made in the image of his Creator. I, and every person I know are shocked and saddened by the cold and callous treatment this man received by those sworn to serve and protect.
But. And I mean BUT! The anger of man does not result in righteousness (James 1:20). Like the mob in Acts 17, the violence and looting we see on the news today is not coming from good intentions. Violent men are seizing opportunity. Thieves are taking advantage. Troublemakers are creating chaos and anarchy. And, the voices of the people who really want to see things change for the better are drowned out by those who want to capitalize politically on any and every crisis they can promote.
Mob violence and riots are as old as humanity. What we are witnessing is nothing new. Ever since the fall, the world has been filled with violence (Gen 6:11). As Christians we need to be discerning. We can and should mourn with those who truly mourn and stand for what is right. But we shouldn’t side with the mob. We cannot stand in solidarity with violent men. We dare not lend credence to opportunists who justify their unrighteous actions. Before we allow ourselves to be swept along by the crowd or swayed by emotional groupthink, remember who we are. Our allegiance is not to any earthly cause or political persuasion. Our loyalty is reserved solely for our righteous King, who will very soon judge the violent, no matter what banner they claim to march under.