The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
It’s awfully easy for a crowd to get out of hand. That’s exactly what happens in Acts 19 in Ephesus. The riot described in verses 23-40 began with an economic challenge. Business was declining for the Ephesian silversmiths. They depended on items related to the temple of Artemis, truly an amazing building. Because of economic concerns, the skilled craftsmen banded together. Someone brought up a concern that people might also think less of Artemis. Whether that was a genuine concern or simply something the artisans would say to protect their business is unclear. Doubtless there was a combination of concerns.
The general population was very responsive to the concern about Artemis and her temple. When the Jews, who were associated in everyone’s minds with the Christians, were identified, two hours’ protest chanting broke out. This brought a response from the civic authorities. After all, riot conditions are not the way to live a peaceful and orderly life, or to attract visitors to Ephesus.
We notice that the town clerk defends the Christians in verse 37. If there are charges to be made, they should be made in the court, rather than by a riot in the streets. It interests me particularly that the pagan clerk, by defending law and order, defends a Christian point of view. This has normally been the outlook of Christians. Civil order is a good thing. Most of the laws of any locality will not require disobedience to God’s commands. Those which require disobedience will be broken, regardless of the consequences. But the vast majority of statutes are not directly contrary to God’s Law.
The New Testament is surprisingly favorable toward Roman jurisprudence. It seems that Christians may feel free to gain benefit from legal protections and opportunities. It may well be wise to consider whether those protections open the door to lawful oppression. But in many cases we may avail ourselves of legal protections. Above all, though, we want to live in society in such a way that we bring no harm. Let us never be the people starting the riot, at least not unless we can demonstrate specifically that God requires us to do so. As we read in Romans 12:18, we should live at peace with all people, at least as much as it is within our power.
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