I hope all believers had an incredible Easter! Obviously, Easter is the day we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead. Now a few days earlier—prior to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead—you see Him in the Garden of Gethsemane praying to the Father about what was soon coming. In the darkness of night, while Jesus engages and communes with the Father, a mob incited by religious leaders, led by the betrayer (Judas), confronts the soon to be Suffering Servant.
Fast-forward 2,000+ years later, and you still find angry mobs attacking Jesus—namely His followers. For instance, on Easter Sunday in Colombo, Sri Lanka, there were a series of explosions at churches and hotels. According to one report, at least 138 people were killed while hundreds more were hospitalized. [Let us pray for our brothers and sisters there in Colombo.]
When I think of an angry mob, I not only envision the group who went to arrest Jesus, or the suicide bombers that wage jihad, I also think about the Crusaders that sought to recover the Holy Land, the Reformed brethren who persecuted and killed Anabaptists, and the Puritans of the Salem Witch Trials who pursued and arrested those who were or were rumored to be witches.
But, these aren’t the only groups that I picture. I also envision the conspirators who participate in secret church meetings to take back their church and Twitter trolls seeking to devour the person or persons caught up in the latest controversy or scandal.
I want you to imagine with me that you are part of one of the mobs mentioned above. What emotion best describes you at the moment you pick up the proverbial torch and pitchfork? Love? Mercy? Forgiveness? Fear? Anger? Hatred? Vengeance? Then, what’s the motivation that best describes the reason you are picking up the torch and pitchfork? Correction of the person or persons? Redemption? Destruction? Elimination?
Of the mobs that I’ve mentioned, what do they have in common? In one way or another, they are religiously devout. You could call them, “Angry religious mobsters.”
In the remainder of this post, I want to outline three characteristics of angry religious mobsters.
1-Angry religious mobsters attack out of fear or self-preservation
The first characteristic of angry religious mobsters is either fear or self-preservation—or a combination of both. Just think of the religious leaders that incited the mob against Jesus. What was their reasoning in doing so?
It wasn’t because they wanted to protect Rome. Ultimately, they were protecting their own hide. With Jesus’ rising popularity with the people, their position and power were threatened. In addition, Jesus’ teaching threatened their religious system and all their traditions. Out of fear of what would be if Jesus’ ministry continued, and out of self-preservation of their own way of life, they came against Jesus.
You might be an angry religious mobster if you attack based upon the fear of losing your religion.
2-Angry religious mobsters attack in the name of God
Don’t miss this! Devout, religious Jews with all the credentials of morality and spirituality led the mob efforts to seek justice against Jesus, the so-called heretic, in the name of God. And in doing so, believed in the justness of their crusade.
The Apostle Paul, before his conversion, attacked Christians in the name of God. He believed his means were both righteous and just. However, when he met and gave his life to Christ—following Christ as his King and Redeemer—Paul realized the true posture Christ wanted His followers to have towards the world. Rather than attack them in the name of God—in an attempt to preserve their own religion—Christ wanted them to attract them to God through love.
Angry religious mobsters always use God as the crux of why they attack others. The posture one takes towards others, reveals the posture of the God or gods they claim to be representing. In other words, how you engage or treat others—even those who think, behave, and believe differently than you—represents how your God or gods would engage and treat the same people. For followers of Jesus, there is never a God-ordained reason why we should attack, malign, hurt, or demonize an individual or group.
If God so loved the world that He gave His Son for their sins, shouldn’t we so love the world that we give them a break from the wrath of our anger born out of fear and self-preservation?
A Christian never has the right to be cruel.
3-Angry religious mobsters attack to destroy
If you asked the elders or chief priests that instigated the mob against Jesus what they were after, they would tell you justice and destruction. They wanted to seek justice on the man whom they considered a heretic. In addition, they wanted to destroy the man and his ministry.
In short, they were out for blood.
I’ve heard many times people say that the reason why they forcefully come against another is to hold that person or persons accountable. There are two thoughts I have about this sentiment.
First, most of the time, the force for which someone goes after another isn’t for accountability, it’s for destruction. They want to destroy the person’s character, position, or life. And that’s not accountability, that’s assassination. Some would even call it justice. I wouldn’t. I would call it judgement.
Second, accountability happens in relationship. And accountability in relationship typically has an element of redemption and restoration. If you are in relationship with someone, and you want to hold them accountable regarding harmful or questionable behavior emanating from their life, you come “to” them not “against” them with the hope of their transformation.
You can’t hold one accountable if there is no relationship. Now, someone might come back and say, what about the justice system? They hold citizens accountable, don’t they? True, But the justice and legal system is based upon one’s relationship with the state through the laws they established. The legal system is based upon the expectations of the citizenry.
Angry religious mobsters come against their foes with the intent to destroy. They will break rules; they will lie; they will gossip; they will rally support from unlikely alliances; they will quote misinformation. In short, they will stop at nothing—they will pull out all stops—to achieve their goal of eliminating the threat.
In closing, I want to go back to the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane. When the angry mob approached Jesus in the garden, Peter, interestingly, drew his sword—now what he was doing with a sword, I don’t know—and cut off the high priest servant’s ear. Jesus rebukes Peter and tells him to put down his sword.
Essentially, Jesus tells Peter that there’s another way to go about engaging your enemies, opponents, foes, rivals, etc.
Rather than taking up a sword to slash His enemies, Jesus took up a cross to die for them.
The way of Christ should be followed by His disciples. When we take up His way to engage the foe, the adversary, the opponent, the rival, there will be far less sword slashing and far more cross bearing. There will be less picking up our pitchforks and torches and more of taking up our cross. And this is a difference between those who have a religion to preserve verses a relationship to proclaim.