(We just had a US Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021).
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The bible does not support or condemn rioting per se; it presents conflict, violence and rioting as a fact of life, the result of our sinful human condition. The bible does provide clear guidance for us as individuals to promote peace. Hebrews 12:14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 1 Timothy 2:2 Pray for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. Romans 12:17-18 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. The bible as a whole is filled with conflict and riotous behaviour. We can observe and learn the underlying motivations or drivers for these behaviours. Territory In the Old Testament people often fought over disputed territory. When the Israelites came to the promised land, they encountered constant conflict as they sought to remove the people groups who lived there and take possession of the land. God approved this conflict because he promised all the land of Canaan to the nation of Israel and he wanted these people destroyed because of their evil and wickedness. Oppression People groups often experienced conflict because of the suppression of their rights and freedoms. The Israelites often experienced various forms of "slavery" from neighbouring peoples. In Jesus time, the nation of Israel was being oppressed by the Roman Empire. The zealots were constantly fighting for freedom through riots and insurrections against the Roman forces. The Jews longed for the Messiah to come and defeat the Romans and return their freedom. Jesus knew they wanted to make him King and he often withdrew to lonely places. Jesus selected two zealots, Judas Iscariot and Simon the Zealot, to be part of his twelve closest followers. Undoubtedly, this would be seen as Jesus endorsing the zealots cause. On the night Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:46-56) a large crowd came with swords and clubs. When they moved forward to seize Jesus, one of his disciples drew a sword and cutoff a person's ear. Jesus said, put away your sword, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Jesus said, he could call on more than twelve legions of angels to defend him, but how then could scripture be fulfilled that it would happen this way. Jealousy and Envy and Fear After Jesus trial, the chief priests, pharisees and teachers of the law, whipped up the crowd into a frenzy. Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but the Jewish leaders, out of jealousy and envy, wanted Jesus crucified. They were also afraid that Jesus would lead an armed rebellion that the Romans would crush, then they would lose their power and authority over the people. They began chanting "Crucify him, crucify him" until Pilate agreed. As Paul travelled on his missionary journeys to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, he usually started in the Jewish synagogues. Some Jews and God-fearing Greeks would believe and join his movement. The leading Jews of the city became jealous and envied Paul's charismatic ability to convince fellow Jews to leave their faith and community. They felt threatened and were afraid of losing their identity and influence in their local community. Fear and Anger and Hatred In Ephesus, Paul's preaching was attracting many Gentile followers, who threw away their idols and didn't buy anymore. The metalworkers guild could see their livelihood was being threatened, so they whipped up the local populace into a frenzy to drive these Christians out. We can read about this riot in Acts 19:23-41. In my view "Fear of Loss" is the most powerful driver of conflict and rioting. Oppressed people fear the loss of their rights and freedoms. The oppressors fear the loss of their power and control. All the result of our sinful human nature.
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