Tag Archives: Mob

God’s People, part 286: Sosthenes

Read 1 Corinthians 1:1-3

“The crowd then grabbed Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and beat him right there in the courtroom. But Gallio paid no attention.”  (Acts 18:17, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 286: Sosthenes. There is a bit of a mystery who Sosthenes is. In 1 Corinthians 1:1, Paul introduces him as a co-writer of the letter as well as a brother in Christ. That’s it. In Acts, there is a mention of a Sosthenes who was the Chief Ruler of the Synagogue at Corinth. In that account of Acts 18:12-17, which was discussed in part 267 of this devotion series, “The Mob”, Gallio was being pressured by an angry mob of people to punish Paul. Being the Roman Governor, Gallio did not want to get involved in religious matters and so he dismissed the case.

The angry mob then turned on their Synagogue leader, beating him instead. They, no doubt, probably felt that Sosthenes was guilty for not pushing Gallio hard enough to see Paul’s punishment through. So, as angry mobs are wont to do, they turned on their leader and beat him. Of course, Gallio did not interfere in his beating, but paid no attention to it.

Traditionally, Church Father’s and church scholars believed that this Sosthenes was the same one as the Sosthenes mentioned in 1 Corinthians. It makes sense why, given that Sosthenes was from Corinth and new the community, and being that Sosthenes was beaten for seeming sympathetic to Paul. Still, not everyone in modern Scholarship believes that the Sosthenes in 1 Corinthians is the same as the one in Acts.

Some modern scholars believe that this Sosthenes was a young Gentile man who Paul taught, a man who looks up to Paul as a teacher. These scholars reject this man, who was serving under Paul, being the leader of a Synagogue. I have not seen evidence as much as I have seen speculation and, thus, all I can say is this is a mystery that we may never have a conclusive answer on.

I am typically skeptical of modern scholarship going against tradition on a modernist whim and so, I will write on Sosthenes as if he were the same person as the Synagogue leader. A wise teacher once taught me that if there is no solid evidence against an ancient tradition, the ancient tradition should be generally believed. If such evidence exists, I will gladly change my mind, but I have yet to come across it.

What we have in Sosthenes is more proof that not all Jews were against Paul or early Christianity. Sometimes it seems to be conveyed that way. As has been discussed before, general phrases such as “the Jews” found in books such as John were really pointing to Jewish opponents, mostly Jewish religious leaders. They did not refer to the Jewish people as a whole. In fact, the author and editors of the Gospel of John were Jewish.

We can presume that this Sosthenes was not willing to put another Jew to death, even if the Jew was a follower of Jesus; thus, the mob turned on Sosthenes for not complying with their will. This was a risk that the Synagogue leader was willing to make to do what is right and, as it turned out, he became a believer and co-worker of Paul’s. The power of God is to bring love and reconciliation to all and, in Sosthenes, we see that power played out!

This should challenge us in our time. Right now, we see far too many leaders, religious and political alike, unwilling to take the risk to do what is right. Far too often, these leaders play it safe in order to hold on to power. Sosthenes challenges us to NOT do that. It is clear in the Scripture that Sosthenes’ leadership lost the confidence of the mob because he chose to do what was right. He took that risk and was willing to pay the price for it…because it was the RIGHT thing to do. Let us reflect on that and, like Sosthenes, Paul and others, put what is right over what is convenient and self-beneficial.

False power will NEVER lead one to Almighty God.

Lord, help me to realize that without you I am powerless and that, in times of trial, it is important to surrender to what is right, rather than surrendering to the pressures of the world. Amen.

Fleeing the Mob

Read Mark 15:1-20

“Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead.” (Acts 14:19 NLT)

TheMobScenePerhaps you have seen the old Universal film, “Frankenstein”, starring Boris Karloff. If so, you will certainly remember the scene of the townspeople forming a mob  and chasing after the monster accidentally killed the little girl while playing with her on the dock. The girl had stumbled upon the monster, well, the monster actually stumbled upon her. All the same, the girl was trying to teach the monster a game of throwing flowers into the water of a pond.

She threw one and it floated. The monster imitated and his floated too; however, when all of the flowers were floating in the water and there were none left to throw, the monster decided to try the same thing with the little girl. It was, in all honesty, an innocent mistake. Unfortunately, the little girl could not swim and ended up drowning. Add that to the fact that this creature, this “monster”, was pieced together with the body parts of dead corpses by a crazed and mad scientist, and the people in the girl’s village were riddled with fear and rage.

Of course, fear and rage make for a deadly combination and, so, an angry and vengeful mob was the result. For those who remember this film, you will remember that this mob chased after the monster and trapped him in a windmill. In their rage, they torched the windmill and the monster inevitably burned alive after the windmill caved in on him. Following the film’s conclusion, one is seriously left wondering who was truly the monster: the creature, or the neglectful mad scientist and the raging mob.

Another film comes to mind when I think of mob mentality. In the Walt Disney film “Beauty and the Beast”, Gaston riles a mob when Belle tries to save her father from being committed in a mental institution. In order to show that her father isn’t crazy in his ramblings about a “beast” living up in the castle, she shows Gaston and the crowd the beast through magic mirror the beast gave to her as a gift.

Using fear to persuade them, Gaston is able to easily persuade the  crowd into believing that this beast is ferocious and will come in the night to steal away their children and sink his sharp fangs into their flesh. Belle tries to counteract Gaston by telling the villagers that the beast is actually friendly and means them no harm; however, they’ve already mobbed together with pitchforks and guns and there was no way that reason was ever going to break through to them.

The mob ignored her completely, locked her up with her father, and ran off into the night to go kill the beast. In the end, they did so to their own detriment and at their own peril. Gaston, himself, ends dead as a result of his fear mongering. Thus, both “Frankenstein” and “Beauty and the Beast” can be seen, among other things, as a sharp and potent warning against mobs and the mob mentality.

We are so prone, as human beings, to run to the mill with what “could happen” that we often throw caution and reason to the wind in order to attack what we fear most. I see this happening right now in this country during this election cycle, and it is most certainly happening in our world as well. The more we are attacked by terrorists, and the more people’s perceptions of our stability and security become cynical and/or negative, the more people use that fear to drum up support for action that may or may not be reasonable, let alone practical or warranted.

The challenge for us is to flee the mob, to stay clear of it, to separate ourselves from the ferver, the fear mongering, the hype, the rhetoric, and the polarization that goes on in our communities and in our worlds. We need to put ourselves in an open space where we have room to take a deep breath, think, pray and allow God to guide us. It’s not that we shouldn’t heed warnings and/or look at all fear-inducing warnings as false or bad. They very well could be true; however, it is how we react to them that makes or breaks us. When we react like the common mob caught up in a rageful ferver, we fail to use our heads, our hearts, and our faith. God is calling us to flee the mob and seek God’s guidance and wisdom out in all that we do.

“The mob is the mother of tyrants.” – Diogones

Lord, help us to not to get caught up in the mob mentality and to seek only your ways and your guidance. Amen.