“…there arose a great disturbance about the way.”
In Acts 19, people were upset. At first, I wanted to write about how when Paul led others to truly live life the “way” Jesus intended – it really ticked off the Jewish leaders. They were content with their system of relating to God through obedience and attendance. Here comes Paul telling people to actually love God and others, take care of others, put others before yourself… revealing the shortcomings of their system.
I wanted to write of my fear that the church is sinking into the same trap the first century Jews were in, and how we need someone like Paul to come along and free us from the “just show up when we open the doors and do what you’re told” religious quicksand.
Then I kept reading.
The synagogue leaders were irate. But, it got worse. Under the guise of devotion to Artemis, a favorite goddess of Ephesus, leaders of trade in the community nearly started a riot! The source of their livelihood was threatened by “the Way”. “If people start worshiping this Jesus, who will be buying these statues of Artemis we sell them?”
When was the last time the church did something that the community really took notice of? I’m not talking about stupid behavior done with God’s name slapped onto it like a badge. I’m not talking about picketing military funerals or bullhorn blasts about whom God hates. I’m not talking about ornate buildings or flashy TV spots. Those things might grab headlines, but that’s not what Paul was doing in Ephesus. He was training people to live like Jesus. And when they did, the synagogue became obstinant and spread lies about them, some tried to mimic them*, and the “whole city was in an uproar.”
Where, today, is the church leading a transformation of lives so deep that social mores are threatened? Have we become more concerned with collecting members than we are about living “the Way”?
*maybe I’m a little twisted, but I find the story of the “Seven Sons” in verses 13-16 pretty funny. Don’t throw Jesus’ name around like a magic token – you might just get beat senseless!