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Acts 19:28-41, Stir It Up (Or: "What to Do in a Riot")

Key Verse

The city was filled with the confusion; and people rushed together to the theatre, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s travelling-companions.
— Acts 19:28-41

RCL Daily Devotion for Tuesday, July 9, 2019

RCL Daily Devotions written by Dr. Kimberly Leetch from RCL Worship Resources (see more).

Ephesus was a town famous for its temple to the goddess Artemis, goddess of the hunt, wild animals and the wilderness, and protector of young girls, virginity and childbirth. The crafting of idols was big business in Ephesus, and the silversmiths and artisans worried that the anti-idol message of “The Way” (the name for early Christianity) threatened their livelihoods. A riot broke out when two of Paul’s companions, Gaius and Aristarchus, spoke against idols. Alexander, a Jewish follower of Christ, calmed the crowds by reminding them that there were legal and just ways of dealing with their anger.

I have not lived through a riot. I see them on TV all the time, and I wonder how such a thing can occur. How can rational, law-abiding citizens suddenly turn in mass numbers, and do incomprehensible, frightening things? But that’s just the thing, isn’t it? Riots are based in fear and gain momentum as the exhilaration builds on the hope that the outcome of the movement will be something better. Riots are seldom, if ever, irrelevant. They come when social issues such as poverty and inequality reach their tipping point. (For more on the psychology of rioting, check out this article from Psychology Today.)

When I see a riot or even a peaceful protest on TV, I do my best to stand in the shoes of the ones who are rioting. What did they fear? What did they fear they would lose? What did they have to lose? Standing in their shoes, even for a moment, helps me to see that we do not yet live in a world where Christ’s peace and justice prevail.

Riots can speak to the invisible and silent injustices we, perhaps, do not want to see. Maybe we can let ourselves be moved by compassion and understanding to make the changes needed to bring this world closer to the kingdom of God that Christ desired.

Help me, O God, to become more compassionate to the plights of others. Amen.

 

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Acts 19:28-41

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