Is rationality really a good thing?

If you’ve watched any news this week, you have seen protestors, rioters affiliated with ANTIFA and Black Lives Matters behaving badly all across America. You’ve seen in Pittsburgh that they have attacked black business owners. They have threatened and screamed at people having coffee at a sidewalk café. In Portland you’ve seen protesters in residential areas screaming and cursing at home owners sitting inside their homes. If this confuses you, join the club.

The question that we are tempted to ask is, “Why all the vitriol? Why the bullying tactics? Why can’t we just sit down and reason together? Why can’t we rationally discuss racism and other issues?” Well, if you remember a week ago, I told you about a presentation from the Smithsonian Museum of History and Culture, a presentation on Whiteness. Just as a side note, they apologized this week for posting that presentation. But in that description of whiteness they included core values unique to whiteness that are not associated with other kinds of people. One of those characteristics was the characteristic of rational thinking.

Now it made me think, “Why is rational thinking a racially segregated characteristic?” Well, let me tell you about the research I did this week. It turns out that the anger, the bullying and intimidation tactics of ANTIFA and Black Lives Matter come out of a core value of that movement that argues that reasonable conversation is pointless. They view their opponents as enemies who are literally unable to intellectually process the issue of their own racism. In other words, you’re so steeped in racism that it doesn’t do any good to even talk to you about it.

The answer is, only those victims who have a lived experience on the receiving end of racism, only those people out of their lived experiences can discover the truth. So, they feel that the only way to advance their cause is to force the oppressors and the powerful to feel the same anxiety that the oppressed and the powerless have felt all of their lives. Accordingly, bullying and intimidation, those are not just the bad behaviors of hateful people. They are actually a strategy designed in one sense to give the oppressors a taste of the own medicine.

That’s why internment camps for Christians are not just hyperbole, they’re not just exaggerated talk. It’s not just crazy speculation. The plan is to put those who don’t think properly in camps where they can begin for the first time to feel how it feels to be oppressed.

Well, as always the scriptures us insight and direction in how to approach this contemporary phenomena. In Acts 17 we have Paul in the middle of one of his missionary journeys. He’s traveling across the Roman Empire and in this chapter he comes to two cities. First the city called Thessalonica and then secondly a city called Berea. In Acts 17 he encounters a similar situation to what we see unfolding on our television screens today. In Acts 17:1-3 it says:

“After they passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As usual, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead: "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah."

Paul puts on display the natural strategy of Christianity. He went to people who had an inclination toward spiritual things and he reasoned with them. He took the Scriptures and it says, “He spent three Sabbath days,” three weeks in a row, “explaining and showing” patiently from scripture what was true. He was teaching about Jesus. Now verse 4 tells us that he saw considerable results from this approach. In fact, he saw changed lives. Verse 4 says, "Then some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, including a large number of God-fearing Greeks, as well as a number of the leading women."

In other words, this patient approach of explaining truth and helping people understand, that is a Christian characteristic. And it’s affective in leading people to be persuaded and to adopt the truth. Now, here’s where we see the opposition strategy in verse 5.

But the Jews became jealous, and they brought together some wicked men from the marketplace, formed a mob, and started a riot in the city. Attacking Jason's house, they searched for them to bring them out to the public assembly. When they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city officials, shouting, "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too, and Jason welcomed them into his home! They are all acting contrary to Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another king—Jesus!" The crowd and the city officials who heard these things were upset. And after taking a security bond from Jason and the others, they released them.

Here’s the opposition strategy. They were angry opponents to what Paul was doing. And they were unable to refute the truth claims that Paul was making. They were unable to argue with the power of the Gospel to transform people’s lives. And so, it says here in my translation “wicked men.” I like the translation I’ve read in other places, “idle scoundrels.” It says went out into the marketplace and found some idle scoundrels. In 2020 we would call them “useful idiots.” And they drew a people together and encouraged them to create a crisis, to cause a riot. They couldn’t answer the claims of the Gospel. They couldn’t debate and persuade in return. And so, their strategy was to form an unreasoning mob to bring violence and destruction to the city.

This approach two thousand years ago and in 2020 displays the weakness of the position that the mobs seem to be promoting. It is a strategy of disruption. We’ve seen this in recent years on college campuses across America where Christian or even politically conservative speakers are invited to speak on campus. Students show at the meetings and shout them down so they can’t even speak. It’s not what college is meant to be, a place of intellectual engagement. They just disrupt and not allow the conversation to proceed. That’s what’s happening in America’s streets right now.

It is a strategy to create a disruption caused by violence and intimidation to force regular people to feel like they are among the oppressed. It creates a setting for trial by public opinion incited and manipulated by destruction and violence.

In verse 6 there was the accusation that these are the men who have been turning the world upside down. Now, as a Christian I take that as a compliment. But it is interesting in the passage, what they were saying is, “these are the men who are causing disruptions everywhere.” And yet, the accusation of disrupting the peace was being made by those who were actually disrupting the peace.

In Seattle, Washington state this week a massive group of Christians from a variety of churches decided to gather together outdoors in a public park where they could have a joint worship service to encourage one another to take a stand for what’s true. Seattle, the city that allowed protestors to occupy their Capital Hill district and drive small business owners out of business as they controlled that space for days and weeks. Seattle, a place where protests and public assemblies of rioters have gone on almost unstopped for months now. And yet, on the day that Christians decide to go to a public park, the City of Seattle not only closed the park for use by the public but they erected fences and barricades to keep the Christians out of the public park.
Well, Christians did what Christians tend to do. They just moved on. They went out into the streets and practiced what they called a worship protest. They began to sing and praise and celebrate Jesus. You want to know what they sang in the video I was watching of the event? They were singing the great song Our God Reigns. I saw the video from the camera of an ANTIFA protestor who was standing on the edge of the crowd filming what was happening. And you could hear him say in the video, “The more I yell, the more bleeping fun they have.”

Folks, were will persuade for the truth by the authenticity of the lives that we live as we follow Jesus Christ.

Well, Paul slips out of Thessalonica. He avoids the confrontation and moves on to Berea. When he gets to Berea the same thing happens. He begins to teach in the synagogue. He begins to persuade and to reason about Jesus. Again, the result is the same. People are transformed. They begin to follow Jesus.

When the opponents find out that Paul had moved on to Berea, this is what is says. (16,17)
But when the Jews from Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul at Berea, they came there too, agitating and upsetting the crowds. Then the brothers and sisters immediately sent Paul away to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed on there.

The bottom line is Paul just kept moving and kept doing what he does. That’s the Christian way. As best you can avoid interacting with unreasonable people.

Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7. He says there’s a discernment that comes with sharing the Gospel. And you don’t give holy things to someone who will throw them down and trample on them. He compares it to giving precious pearls to pigs.

We continue the work of the Gospel wherever we find ourselves. And it always has the same results, transformed lives. Everywhere they opposed Paul they used the same strategy of distraction and intimidation, but never intellectual engagement. This is an exact parallel with what we see in 2020. Distraction, intimidation, violence and bullying but never intellectual engagement.
So, Paul continues to move. He avoids unproductive encounters as much as possible. But notice this. Even while Paul moved on carrying the Gospel, he assigned some believers to stay behind in each place with instructions to train the new Jesus followers.

Here’s the bottom line for us. Don’t get sidetracked with worthless arguments made by intellectually vapid people. Instead, find the seeker. Find the receptive person. Find the hurting person. Find the listener. Share the Gospel. Offer salvation. Lead others into discipleship. And put eternity on display.

Just like those Christians in the Roman Empire, this is the strategy that will change the world.

This is Truth Currents.
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