Fear, Mob Mentality, and the Believer’s Response: A Lesson From Acts
January 9, 2021
After an insurrection was mounted on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, I woke up feeling heavy the following morning. I opened my Bible app first thing and began to prepare my mind for a new day. My yearly reading plan led me to read Acts 13 and 14 which describes two instances of mobs being incited to act wickedly on behalf of God’s servants, Paul and Barnabas.
When God works and brings people to faith, the enemy responds. In Acts 13:44-52, Paul preached to the Gentiles where great crowds gathered to hear the good news of the gospel for the first time. Many believed that day. The Jews, who hated the Gentiles, considering them lesser people, stirred up and incited a mob that ran Paul and Barnabas out of town. The religious people refused to accept God’s plan for extending His grace and mercy to non-Jews, leading to violence. Believing they knew God’s plan better than God, they feared the disruption of their monopoly on the religious scene of their day.
The Disciples’ Response
I love that Paul and Barnabas shook off the dust of rejection from their feet and went where they could preach. And verse 52 says the believers were filled with joy. They didn’t seek retaliation. They worshipped over receiving Christ.
Chapter 14 starts out saying that the same thing happened in Iconium. Paul and Barnabas preached with boldness and a great number of people came to a saving faith. However, some Jews poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against these men of God. Paul and Barnabas kept preaching which led to a division in the town. Sound familiar? The dire result of poisoned minds was a mob of both Gentiles and Jews attacking and stoning both Paul and Barnabas. God protected them for their purpose, and they walked away to preach in another place.
Mob Mentality at the Root
If you read these passages, the seeds that take root and lead to these wicked mobs is a tainted mind, a jealous spirit, a need for control, a desire to be right, and a lack of belief in God’s plan. Minds that aren’t controlled by the Spirit of God are susceptible to believe any wind that blows without regard for truth and integrity. Even believers who neglect daily renewal of their mind can fall into conspiracy theories, false slander, evil plots, and violence.
I believe we witnessed tainted minds on display in our country this week. I dare say I believe it has also been poisoning the minds of God’s people in a tragic way for a long time. The lines between God’s commands and our political position and control have been so blurred and skewed, manifesting itself in violent, ungodly ways and hurting the testimony that matters.
I don’t have time here to remind us all of the character of Christ, but I would encourage you to study and think on the whole counsel of God. Really consider what God is asking of you as a citizen of a nation in light of your spiritual heritage and citizenship. We need time to reevaluate and sit with this. Exposing evil when clear evil exists is taught. So is exposing the evil within our own hearts.
I don’t normally pick a word of the year, but in the midst of such a tumultuous season, I am asking God for discernment. I desire to be able to weed truth from lies, avoid being sucked into deceptive patterns of thinking, and to avoid letting fear create an alternate universe where truth is distorted for attention. Conspiracy theories are not truth, and I want to guard against seeking my own agenda and will with such tenacity that I imagine a truth that doesn’t exist. And I am asking for God to give me a sound mind in the face of fear.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”
James 3:13-17 ESV
I often feel out of place with many Christians I know because I disagree on many political issues within our culture. I think many are in denial of their contribution to circling false information and conspiracy theories that are speculative and not grounded in reality and truth. Social media has made this spread faster than a virus and infected many. Others use vile words to describe people they disagree with, and I can’t sit in agreement. It has caused rifts in relationships. A tainted mind is a subtle beginning born out of believing evil in every man, institution, and narrative that doesn’t align with their own narrative about how God will work in the world. We force a plan we deem as God’s own. We demonize people. James warns us that this leads to disorder, and he encourages us to seek true wisdom.
Are the hearts of man wicked? Yes. But they all are (Jeremiah 17:9). Even redeemed people are capable of lying and seeking personal gain. Christians, Republicans, Democrats…all are capable of seeking their own selfish ambition. It hurts to think of how Christianity has used their distorted views of Scripture and religion to hurt others for personal profit through history. But it is true. It takes meekness, according to James, to admit it and repent of it.
Are there spiritual forces at work seeking to destroy truth and persecute believers? Yes. The Bible is clear on this. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against powers in the spiritual realm. Satan is seeking to destroy. We don’t wrestle against man but we do wrestle. It is a battle of our minds toward God’s truth and surrender to His authority over us. God asks us to stand out in a perverse culture and that might take greater sacrifice and discernment as the world grows darker.
Applying God’s Truth
I have been praying for God to give me a greater sense of discernment and wisdom on living in this chaotic world. I pray it for all of you readers too. James 1:5 is clear that He willingly gives it to those asking in faith. So it is possible, but it requires great discipline to protect our minds from all the influences around us. To think on right and good things. To let God expose the lies and injustices that are hidden to our eyes. And to understand that God’s purpose is our purpose: to go forth into the world and preach the good news.
What can you take from Acts 13 and 14 to help you live that out in faith? Would love to hear your thoughts, prayer requests, or questions.