baltimore rioting

The Baltimore Rioters are No Different Than Demetrius in Acts 19

Unless you’ve been camping in the wilderness for the past twenty-four hours, you’ve heard about the rioting taking place in Baltimore right now. Briefly, the rioting is said to be in response to the death of a man, Freddie Gray, who died just days after receiving severe spinal damage while in police custody. Despite his family pleading for supporters not to engage in violent and criminal protests, mayhem has broken out in an inner-city Baltimore neighborhood.

Cloaking Criminality With Their Interest in Justice

I’m not going to argue whether or not the unfortunate death of Freddie Gray should be protested. The clear point is that we will not have all the facts for quite some time. This makes it impossible to pass judgment on any parties involved. What I can say, however, is that these thugs and bullies who are tearing apart Baltimore could care less about Freddie Gray and his family, evidenced by their clear rejection of the family’s request for no violence.

They are cloaking their criminality with a false interest in justice. Justice? Where is the justice for the business owners who are having their stores ransacked, burned, and liquidated? Where is the justice for the families who actually live in the neighborhood war-zone who are begging and pleading to the cameras for the violence to stop?

Is There a Biblical Parallel?

I asked around to some of my fellow brothers in ministry this morning trying to find a parallel in Scripture to what is taking place in Baltimore. We can find plenty of rioting stories in Scripture but what about the motive? Isn’t that what is in question here? Where did someone in Scripture riot with a cloaked motive?

In Acts 19.23ff we find a man by the name of Demetrius. Demetrius sold silver shrines of the “goddess” Artemis in Ephesus. Paul’s presence was not good for Demetrius’ business. Paul was teaching the Ephesians that any god made with hands was not a true god (Acts 19.26) and as a result, Demetrius began to see a decline in sales.

Angered by his loss of wealth (the true motive), he stirred the people of Ephesus into a riot by cloaking his despair over lost coin in a pious act of defending the goddess, Artemis (Acts 19.27). Truthfully, Demetrius could have cared less about the Greek goddess, but he saw her as an opportunity to stir up trouble for his own benefit (Acts 19.29ff). In the same way, the rioters in Baltimore have no true affection for Freddie Gray. The thugs stampeding the streets needed an excuse to be criminals. They needed an excuse to let their true nature shine. Which sadly, the death of Freddie Gray gave to them.

These Outbreaks are Just Symptoms of a Deeper Problem

We have to be careful as Christians not to get tunnel vision when events like this occur because they are symptoms of a much deeper problem.

We live in a post-Christian, post-law culture where people have been trained to interpret morality any way they want. They are controlled by their emotion and have lost the ability to think rationally. Wouldn’t you think that a plea for no violence from the dead man’s family would be enough to stop the rioting? Why do these hoodlums continue to disgrace the very person they claim to be honoring?

Has God Given America Over to Its Sinful Hearts?

There is no greater judgment on man than God turning a people over to their sinful hearts. He did it in Sodom, Paul spoke about it in Romans (Rom 1.24), and He’s doing it again in America. Americans (in general) have lost their objective standards and things are only going to get worse. Just as in Habbakuk, God is judging a nation with people more wicked and irrational than those being judged.

And let’s not be fooled, it isn’t just the rioting.  Moral relativism has seeped its way into every facet of our society–abortion, same sex marriage, economy, tolerance, and the list of symptoms goes on and on.

How Should Christians Respond?

  1. Stop expecting things to get better. Our nation as a whole is in a downward spiral and the very people who promise to revive it are typically the biggest proponents of moral relativity. I hate to be a pessimist this morning, but American Christians should at least begin preparing for the worst from our country.
  2. Don’t back down. In this era where people make decisions based on what’s right for them as individuals, we cannot back down from what we know the Bible says to be right. Now, more than ever, we must guard our hearts from tolerance and compromise. It’s so easy to slip into this pattern. Keep watch!
  3. Live it. The one thing our society hates more than intolerance, is an intolerant hypocrite. Don’t be a hypocrite! Live out your life in full surrender to Jesus every minute of every day. People are watching, waiting for an excuse to point a finger; waiting for an excuse to justify their own sin because their Christian co-worker/neighbor is doing it too. Don’t be that person!

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

I interviewed John Fast and Bryan Rhoden before writing this, and much of this article was produced from the discussions I had with them.

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