Thugs And Intimidation
In the U.S. to peacefully protest is a sacred right of our Republic. That’s why last Tuesday evening when we watched President Erdogan’s security men move in with kicks and punches to break up demonstrators in the park across the street from the Embassy, many congressmen called for a strong response from the State Department. Almost a week later, Washington is still trying to figure out what to do, but one thing can’t be denied--thugs causing disturbances in the streets is an old story.
In fact, those who opposed Paul and Silas’ success in convincing, not only Jews, but also Greeks and some prominent women that Jesus was the Messiah, gathered some goons hanging out in the downtown area of Thessalonica and stirred up the mob. Check out what they did when they didn’t find Paul and Silas where they thought they would be:
“Now passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. Paul, following his usual custom (Acts 13:5, 14; 14:1; 18:4; 19:8), went in and for three Sabbaths he argued from the Scriptures with them. He was pointing out and demonstrating that the Messiah must suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This one is the Messiah, Jesus, whom I proclaim to you.’ Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many god-fearers, Greeks, and not a few of the prominent women.
But other Jews became jealous. They gathered some thugs from the marketplace, worthless men, and ignited a disturbance in the city. They attacked Jason’s home seeking Paul and Silas to bring them out to the people. When they didn’t find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city officials, shouting, ‘These are the ones who are upsetting the entire civilized world, and here they are right in our midst. Jason has welcomed them, entertained them as guests, though they are acting against the decrees of Caesar saying there is another king, Jesus.’
When they heard these things the crowd and the city officials became agitated. And when they had received security from Jason and the rest, they released them. And immediately during the night the brothers sent Paul and Silas on to Berea.” Acts 17:1-10a
The way we interpret a given incident depends upon our point of view. For example, a Turkish Moslem supporting Erdogan will cry out that the demonstrators in Washington, D.C. were threatening their president and got what they deserved.
Across the street in the park, those American Turks who believe in freedom of speech and the right to protest, will cry out for civil suits against the Turkish security detail who roughed them up. Like fish swimming in water, our point of view determines how we think, but few of us pay attention to how our personal point of view determines who we label bad guys and who we think are the good guys.
Now apply this to the episode in Thessalonica. If you listened to Paul arguing for three weeks in your synagogue that Jesus was the Messiah and you rejected this claim, how would you judge what the mob did to silence these outsiders? Suppose you’re one of the thugs inciting the crowd, what would you think about Paul and Silas? Now put yourself in the place of the city leaders responsible for maintaining order in the city.
Here’s the big question. According to how Luke told this story in Acts, who are the good guys and the bad guys in the situation? And do you agree or disagree with him?
LORD, Mary and I just met with an Albanian who has friends traveling to Turkey. He stressed how under Erdogan’s tightening of control, it’s getting harder to have open dialogue about spiritual things. Curb this repression of free speech, especially when it comes to talking with others about Your Son. Help our brothers and sisters in Turkey.
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