HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO RIOTING
A riot broke out in Ephesus over the importance of the Temple of Diana to the city’s identity and fame. The riot began as an angry response by the silversmiths of Ephesus, who made a living making figurines of the goddess Diana to sell. Their business had declined with the growth of Christianity in the city, where the apostle Paul had planted a church. Paul taught that these figures were not gods, but mere images made by men. And the silversmiths took their grievance to the streets shouting, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”, knowing it would arouse the emotions of the city’s citizens.
The disturbance grew in size, filling the 25,000 seat Ephesian theater with the rioting mob. Most of the crowd didn’t even know what the chaotic assembly was about. The apostle Paul wanted to enter the arena to speak, but his disciples wisely prevented him. For anyone who tried to offer a reasoned explanation was quickly shouted down. Rioting mobs cannot be reasoned with. Confusion and violence are the rule of the mob, not order and solutions.
Fortunately, a city leader calmed the crowd, reminding them that their grievances should be handled in the courts, not the streets, and warning them of the consequence of a disorderly assembly in a Roman city. For the Roman Legions would be called in to quickly quell any such disturbance.
Today, the city of Ephesus lies in ruins. The Temple of Diana, once considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World, lies broken on its now empty acropolis. Its grand stadium lies quiet, except for the echo of tourists snapping photos of its ruins.
The rioting mob of Diana’s worshipers may have left Ephesus behind, but they still appear in every city of the world where Satan stirs them up. They cannot be reasoned with, for the author of confusion is at the heart of such disorderly assemblies.
Yet, the message of the gospel continues to be preached, quietly and steadily calling its citizens into that city not made by human hands, into that “unshakable kingdom” (Heb. 12:28) which shall stand forever more.
PRAYER: Dear Father, help us not to be worried or afraid when rioting mobs appear in our cities today. Teach us how to respond. For we want to speak, but sometimes it is best just to wait and preach after the rioting has passed. Give us wisdom to know our response in such times. And to be reminded that this too shall pass, but Your kingdom shall forever stand. In Jesus’ name, amen.