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"The city fathers and the crowd of people were totally alarmed by what they what they heard. They made Jason and his friends post heavy bail and let them go while they investigated the charges.
"That night, under cover of darkness, their friends got Paul and Silas out of town as fast as they could. They sent them to Berea, where they again met with the Jewish community. They were treated a lot better there than in Thessalonica. The Jews received Paul's message with enthusiasm, and met with him daily, examining the Scriptures to see if they supported what he said. A lot of them became believers, including many Greeks who were prominent in the community, men and women of influence." Acts 17:8-12 (The Message).
Now that's what they were supposed to do, check the evidence!
What a contrast between the people of Thessalonica and Berea! For the most part, the citizens of Thessalonica were an unruly mob, egged on by ruthless Jews who stopped at nothing to hinder Paul from doing his work. Refusing to believe his message was no excuse for creating havoc in the city.
Two issues emerge from this passage. Firstly, no one has the right to intrude on another's God-given gift of choice. God gave man dominion over the earth, including all the creatures but excluding each other. To use any form of force -- intimidation, manipulation or domination -- to impose one's will on someone else is a violation of that basic right. It is the exercise of illegitimate authority and is called, in Scripture, witchcraft. Any form of witchcraft is an abomination to God and He will hold the one accountable who practises it.
Why do so many people insist on controlling others? A control freak is an insecure person and covers up his insecurity by forcing others to conform to his whims. The bully and the abuser expose their inner pain by using their superior strength to dominate others. Others manipulate or threaten to get their own way.
A truly secure person, one who knows who he is and has no need to force others to respect him, honours them by accepting their decisions and choices without begging or cajoling. This kind of interaction can only take place between people who have an inner freedom that demands nothing from other people.
The second issue is one that is, sadly, very common in the church. In the main, people are gullible. They tend to believe what they are told without checking the facts. An honourable preacher or teacher will encourage their hearers to go back to the sources. That's what the Bereans did. There would be far fewer cults and heresies if believers were more like them.
People trust the "authorities" instead of doing their homework. If we are believers, we have the Bible and we have the Holy Spirit, the author of God's Word. We have no excuse for not checking the facts. The Bible interprets itself. If we want to know the truth and take the trouble to study the Bible, the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth to us through the Word.
Let's allow the lesson of the Bereans to encourage us to be honest and diligent to understand and walk in the truth. David's prayer can be our prayer, one that God will faithfully answer:
"Teach me your way, O Lord. And I will walk in your truth. Give me an undivided heart That I may fear your name." Psalm 86:11
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