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The Angry Mob

"But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God" (Jas. 1:19-20). What good has ever come from the actions of an angry mob?  Can man achieve the righteousness of God by inciting a violent riot?  Will justice be achieved by senseless beatings, destruction of property, or looting?

If you have been watching the news since Monday night (November 24, 2014), then you have likely seen an angry mob in action.  The announcement that no charges will be brought against the police officer who shot an aggressive robbery suspect in Ferguson, Missouri, set off riots in the streets.  Windows were smashed, stores were looted, cars and buildings were burned, and shots were fired.  Some of the rioters were angry over the grand jury's decision, and some were just using the event as an excuse to steal and pillage.  None of them achieved anything good.

Angry mobs not only fail to achieve the righteousness of God, but they actually achieve just the opposite.  The righteousness of God forbids theft, violence, and lawlessness (Ps. 11:5; Eph. 4:28; 1John 3:4).  Even if there is injustice, the revenge of the mob is not justified, for the Scripture says in Romans 12:17-21:

17Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.  Respect what is right in the sight of all men.  18If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  19Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay," says the Lord.  20"But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head."  21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

By violating the will of God, the anger of man achieves unrighteousness and multiplies trouble.  It serves only to provoke more anger on the part of man, and it incurs the wrath of God.

The New Testament records several instances of angry mobs.  The most notorious is the mob of angry Jews who demanded that Pilate crucify Jesus Christ (Matt. 27:15-25; Mark 15:1-23; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:28-19:16).  Pilate even attempted to release Jesus, but he "saw that he was accomplishing nothing" and "that a riot was starting" (Matt. 27:24).  Therefore, he submitted to the angry mob and crucified the Son of God. In Acts 14:19-20, an angry mob of Jews at Lystra dragged the apostle Paul out of the city and stoned him for preaching the gospel.  In Acts 16:22, an angry crowd at Philippi rose up against Paul and Silas, and the chief magistrates beat them with rods and imprisoned them.  In Acts 17:5-9, jealous Jews and wicked men at Thessalonica "formed a mob and set the city in an uproar" because of the preaching of the gospel.  In Acts 18:17, a mob at Corinth beat Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, because the proconsul of Achaia would not try Paul.  In Acts 19:23-41, a riotous mob formed at Ephesus because Paul was turning men to Jesus and away from the pagan goddess Artemis.  In this mob, "the majority did not know for what cause they had come together" (v. 32).  In Acts 21:27-36, an angry mob formed to kill Paul when he had peacefully and lawfully entered the temple in Jerusalem.  The mob believed the false accusations made against Paul without even hearing the evidence (vv. 27-30).

These examples along with other instances from history and current events demonstrate certain truths about angry mobs.  First of all, angry mobs never achieve the righteousness of God.  In the New Testament examples, the angry mobs were always in opposition to God's will.  In any instance, God is never pleased with senseless violence and destruction. Next, many individuals within angry mobs are ignorant of the circumstances and do not even know why they are rioting.  They are simply carried away with the emotion of the crowd or just looking for an excuse to behave badly.  Finally, angry mobs almost always become violent.  In the New Testament, innocent men were beaten and killed.  In American colonial times, government officials and others were tarred and feathered (or worse) by angry mobs.  In present times, cities are burned and people are injured and killed by angry mobs.  Altogether, it is evident that nothing good can come from such anger within an assembled multitude.

It is always a sad spectacle any time we see the violence and mayhem of an angry mob. Such behavior is not an understandable reaction as some have said about the mobs in Ferguson, but instead it is a condemnable offense that should never happen.  Let us pray that the anger and violence will abate and that those who stand innocently in the path of these mobs may have peace and safety.  Indeed, may we pray that God's will be done rather than the will of angry men.

Stacey E. Durham




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