Read Acts 19
Focus on verse 23
Some people just seem to stir up trouble wherever they go. We used to call such individuals rabble rousers, since it seemed that wherever they went trouble was sure to follow.
As we read through today’s chapter, one might get the impression that the Apostle Paul may have had this tendency. As he went from city to city and town-to-town, it seemed he was always stirring up trouble and leaving in a hurry. During his time in Ephesus it gets particularly rowdy.
About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. (v. 23)
Apparently Paul’s preaching was beginning to cut into the profit margin of some of the local silversmiths, whose livelihood was dependent upon the sale of silver shrines of the goddess Atremis. As people chose to follow Jesus due to the preaching and teaching of Paul, they abandoned the worship of Artemis.
A silversmith named Demetrius gathered together the other silversmiths and began to make an issue of it. By the end of the chapter the whole city is in an uproar coming dangerously close to becoming a full scale riot, before the town clerk finally succeeds in talking them into breaking up the party before someone gets hurt. (v. 40)
For me this always presents somewhat of a paradox, that the teaching of Jesus – which on the one hand brings peace and tranquility to our souls – so often causes turmoil in communities and families before that peace and tranquility can really take root. When we consider the life of Jesus, He also often stirred up the people with his radical teaching, to the point where the religious leaders feared that Jesus radical teaching would cause the people to rebel against Rome bringing the wrath of the Roman armies upon them and that ultimately they – the religious leaders – would lose their positions of influence.
Jesus teaching remains radical to this day, and continues to be very counter-cultural. We try our best to normalize it within the church, so much so that we have in many cases pretty much emasculated His message to where it no longer makes any difference as those within the church look and act very much like those outside the church.
It would seem to me then, that there is a sense in which unless Jesus followers behave in a counter-cultural manner, the message of the gospel loses its impact. We may have to conclude from this that as followers of Jesus we are – in a sense – called to be holy rabble rousers?