The Idol of Our Stability

Ac_artemisephesus

Ruins of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, Turkey.

Recently, our church has been reading through the book of Acts. A few Sunday’s ago the sermon centered on the stories of Paul’s message at the Areopagus (or Mars Hill) and the following story of the riot in Ephesus.

“A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together…The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there.”‭‭
Acts‬ ‭19:24-29, 32‬ ‭(NIV‬‬)

Demetrius is afraid of Paul preaching this upstart religion which is going to cut into his business. If everyone turns from idols and believes in one god, nobody is going to want to buy the idols that him and his fellow craftsmen are making. They are the dominant religious and economic force in the region and they see Paul as a threat. Demetrius then veils himself in piety with the statement, “There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” His first concern is for his business, then he turns to his secondary concern about the glory of Artemis.

If this story sounds slightly familiar, I don’t think things have changed much from Demetrius and Paul’s time to today. However, the shoe is on the other foot.

Christians in the Western culture of today are in the majority. Yet, as many reports, studies and surveys have shown…things are shifting. We are often the ones who feel like there’s something to lose when differing ideologies move in on our turf. We can often feel like our “way of life” is being altered and our “values” are being infringed upon because somebody else has a different way of seeing things. Much like Demetrius and the crowd in Ephesus, Christians can get riled up when they feel like their way of life is under attack and God may “robbed of [His] divine majesty.”

Is this truly the way of Christ? Many people will cite Jesus’ shenanigans with a whip and tables at the Temple as reason for their response. But, Jesus was taking issue with the powerful majority who was squeezing out the powerless minority.

“After entering the temple, he threw out those who were selling and buying there. He pushed over the tables used for currency exchange and the chairs of those who sold doves. He didn’t allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He taught them, “Hasn’t it been written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you’ve turned it into a hideout for crooks.”
Mark 11:15-17 (CEB)

Doves are highlighted here because they are the sacrifice allowed for the poorest of the poor (see Leviticus 5:7). So, Jesus is not upset because he feels like outsiders or minorities are challenging the status quo. He’s upset because those in power are deliberately keeping out the minorities, outsiders and needy and taking advantage of them in the process.

It can feel good to have a crowd behind you and to be in the majority. But, again I have to ask…is this the way Christ? Christ who had all the power in the cosmos, but gave up his “divine majesty” to look like a servant. Christ who commanded demons and chatted with Elijah and Moses yet stooped down to wash the disciples sand-covered feet. Christ who fed the hungry, healed the sick and raised the dead yet who was crucified, seemingly “discredited” by an angry crowd. Christ who was whipped, spit upon, demeaned and degraded yet is now worshiped throughout the heavens and the earth.

If Christ was not afraid of stepping down from his place of authority to serve those who did not deserve it…we should not fear either.

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4 thoughts on “The Idol of Our Stability

  1. You appear to be saying that since Christians are in the majority, they ought to let themselves be mistreated, and their rights stripped away…?

    There is application for pacifist ideology (though I would have used the ‘turn the other cheek’ passage) you’ve completely misrepresented the passage of Christ in the temple.

    Jesus’ ‘shenanigins’ as you irreverantly call them are the fulfillment of righteous anger – lest we forget He is the express image of the invisible God. That anger is not directed at ‘the majority’ for the purpose of ‘helping the little guy’ in fact the practice of buying & selling in the temple was fully lawful under the command of Moses (as accorsing to the SANCTUARY shekel – see Lev 27).

    Jesus anger was at the fact that in elevating the selling of sacrifices (such as doves), the priests had neglected the whole point of the temple: God’s presence.

    As a Christian, YOU are God’s temple. What mattered to Christ is not the majority, or the minority, the big guy, or the little guy,but God, and what brings honor to God. Our lives ought to elevate the will and presence of God, who is not a democracy. We should never give up on God’s will; and yes, we ought to be willing to fight for God – as Jesus did in the temple (which is why I am responding to your post)

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    • Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I agree that Jesus anger at the Temple was a righteous anger against the injustice of selling sacrifices, probably at elevated prices. But, his anger was directed at the those who had the ability to control the money and the prices. Hence, they were the majority in power.

      I’m not necessarily saying that we need to be doormats that get trampled on, but if we are to honor and elevate the will of God, we ought to at least have our neighbors best interests in mind. As Jesus often pointed out, our neighbors are just as much the outsider, minority and those we’d rather overlook than those who agree with us (i.e. Samaritans, lepers, women, adulterers, etc.). It can be tempting to stand up for God but in reality we are just standing up for ourselves. But, if God’s example for us to follow is Jesus who accepted persecution, beatings and ultimately death on a cross, then this is also an example we should follow just as much as the righteous anger in the Temple right? There is always some element of having others interests in mind above ourselves (see Philippians 2). This may mean not claiming rights we feel like we are entitled to so others can benefit.

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      • http://billygraham.org/story/franklin-graham-the-persecution-of-christians-is-escalating/ood thoughts, Jesus is the shepherd, who leaves the 99 to find the 1. We ought always to care for the orphan and the widow, indeed, God expects this of us (Ps 82). Yet even our best at this is only appropriate RELIGION (see James 1:27), it does not equate to the central pinnicle of Christian spirituality.

        Let me explain what I mean by that, Jesus declared that there are ‘WEIGHTIER MATTERS’ of the law than religious excersise (specifically: judgment, mercy, faith – this teaching is in Matt 23:23).

        So then, we always need to find, and teach from the central issues of God’s word, not peripheral issues; the peripheral become apparent (and can be appropriately emphasized in their place) when the central vitals of the Gospel is declared. This is why I took issue with your usage of Jesus’ acts in the temple. The cause of the ‘little guy’ was not His central focus, in fact you sort of have to stretch things to make it an issue at all. Jesus chief concern was that the religious leaders had left off the central elements of ministry, and they were equating a peripheral ministerial means as the central focus of ministry (again the buying & selling was lawful & even perscribed by Moses ie: it was a legitimate ministry, but this peripheral ministry had taken the place of prayer, and honoring God.

        So the central issue, I was chiefly concerned with is that currently Christians are being persecuted all over the planet, and in this country, the ‘minority’ is coming on us to the degree of oppressing us. I think that Christians should be encouraged to stand on the central and vital truths of the Gospel, and not to have to feel that they are doing wrong by doing so because the ‘minority’ is calling them oppresors.

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  2. I agree with Greg, I believe we are called to help those less fortunate by showing them kindness and grace. Usually this means we let our egos go, and help them with their issues. Christ was upset that those less fortunate were being mistreated by those in power at the time. We, as one person, will not change the world. That is only in the hands of our great God. We can however change how we treat people that we come in contact with daily.

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