Posts Tagged ‘crowds’

The Jerusalem “elders” asked Paul to go through a purification rite to show “everyone” that he was still following the laws of Moses. But it didn’t work. Paul couldn’t change the crowd’s view of him. Am I just one more of the crowd?

Acts 21:27
When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him,…

It didn’t work in Paul’s time and it doesn’t work much better in our time. This power of the crowd is described several times in scriptures and generally, the outcome is always bad. The crowd that responded to Paul’s presence in the temple dragged him out of the temple, locked the doors, and started beating him to death [vs 27-32]. His “outward sign” was futile.

It only takes one or two folks to stir things up. Just look at the crazy email messages that are sent to hundreds and hundreds of people. The “shocking” and more outrageous ones are the most viral and travel the fastest. Some of these messages live on for years and years. This is a virtual version of crowd. Or how about gossip? It’s another example of crowd behavior. In my daughter’s high school, she has suffered tremendously from gossip about her character that has yet to abate, even after a full year. It is next to impossible to fight character bashing by crowd.

Crowd will not be swayed by outward signs once people have jumped on the bashing bandwagon. The ride is too easy. The encouragement to continue too tempting. The camaraderie too inviting.

I would love to say I have never done this! Unfortunately, I have climbed aboard several crowd bandwagons and done my own good share of complaining, jeering, gossiping, and backbiting. I am thoroughly ashamed and ask God to forgive me.

When Jesus faced the “character-bashers,” he was either silent or he asked pointed questions to reveal their heart motives.

I hear the Spirit ask me, “Do the words you speak carry light and life?” and “Do you know the heart of the one you judge?” and “Why are you repeating what you have heard?”

It’s time. It’s time to step away from the crowd.

Read Full Post »

Acts 19:32b
“… Most of the people did not even know why they were there.”

How many times have I looked around and asked myself how I ended up in a particular situation? Sometimes, it’s a crowd thing, to be sure, just being caught up in the synergy of the thing and suddenly, there I am, in the midst of a mass of people who are shouting and carrying signs. I’m not shouting; I’m not carrying a sign. I’ve just realized where I am and I don’t want to be there, but how do I extricate myself?

Some of these things have happened because I didn’t stop to really think. I just went along for the ride not realizing where the ride might lead me. This is usually a type of teen behavior. I should know better.

I remember my first marriage. I was only eighteen and when I accepted that proposal of marriage, never did I realize that I would be caught up in a whirlwind that would not stop. And so, on that fateful day as I walked down the aisle, I knew I was making a mistake. But it was too late and I was not brave enough to be a “runaway bride.”

I remember going up to Toronto when the Toronto Blessing was big news and people were flying in from all over the world to experience this “new wave” of the Spirit. It was all so exciting until I found myself standing on a line with hundred and hundreds of other people waiting for someone to come along and pray for me with the expectation that I would be “slain in the spirit” and fall backward (they also provided catchers). Now, I know that being slain in the spirit can happen, it has happened to me once or twice and I went from upright to flat on the ground, with no catcher, no injuries, and thoroughly blessed. But my Toronto encounter was a conveyor belt and I wondered what I was doing there.

The list of these “where am I” experiences is long. Did someone tell me ahead of time? Did someone try to stop me? Did someone warn me? Unfortunately, I don’t remember that part. I was always too caught up in the moment, in the crowd, in the momentum.

As a parent, I am trying to be that voice of caution or “reality check” for my teenagers. They’re not listening either. Instead, they are calling me a “bubble breaker” who pricks the balloons of excitement and enthusiasm for a project.

But following a momentum without really thinking doesn’t just happen to teenagers. We are all guilty of not looking at all sides of a situation. It can be something as simple as raiding the grocery store for milk, eggs, and bread at the slightest hint that there may be a snowstorm. It can be showing up at a county council meeting to scream about taxes or budget cuts. It can be passing along an email or a blog post that is caustic or crude or downright wrong.

How do we get into these situations? We don’t take time to think… to pray… to consider the consequences of our actions. We lose courage in the face of the crowd, the group voice, the assumptions of righteousness.

Lord, give me a heart of courage this day. Give me sensitivity to your voice, your Spirit. And above all, give me mindfulness.

Read Full Post »

John 18:12a; 15a
From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar…” …they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

Once you get a crowd started, it’s pretty hard to change its direction. Once it gets hold of a picture or a phrase, it’s next to impossible to replace with another. The phrase or picture becomes some kind of mantra and repetition breeds crowd think.

Even if Pilate had released Jesus (which he thought he could control [see vs 10]), the crowd would have carried out their judgment in one way or another. Jesus became, for the crowd, a scapegoat.

This kind of crowd think is still happening today. There are influential people who can get a crowd going with just a few buzz words or volatile images. This week, there was a huge brouhaha over the education speech President Obama offered to all schools around the country as a live feed. The reaction to this proposal was fueled by words like “brainwashing” and “socialism.” Once those words were out there, the crowd (particularly the virtual one) could not be turned.

Crowds can be manipulated for good or for evil. It just depends who gets hold of them first. In previous generations, this work was done in person: a charismatic leader would speak and arouse a crowd’s sentiments. Today, this kindling of emotions is done on the Internet and by email. It’s a stampede of messages.

Once a crowd is on the “march,” it’s only violence or time that can break through the din. This kind of crowd cannot hear logic or respond to pleading. Either the pushback is of equal intensity (think of demonstrations) or the intensity peters out because it cannot sustain itself over time.

I imagine there were a lot of people who regretted their participation in the crowd think that called for the crucifixion of Jesus. We should also take care that we aren’t getting caught up in crowd think.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: