Passion: The Cry of the Crowd
Mike Fitzpatrick | Luke 23:13-25
I am a big Cleveland Browns fan.
Go ahead, take your shots. I’ve heard them all.
On Dec 16, 2001, one of the most infamous events in NFL history happened in Cleveland. They called it “Bottlegate”. Here’s what went down:
This is an example of what can be called ‘mob mentality’ or ‘herd mentality.’ It’s when individuals do things that they wouldn’t normally do because of the influence of a larger group and their need to fit in, to feel acceptance.
The mob mentality can take all sorts of forms, from bullying of a child in school, to excessive partying in college, to political protests or the staunch backing of a political candidate, to, in its most extreme sense, what we observed in Nazi Germany.
Most of us are feeling pretty grateful that we are strong enough and principled enough to not give in to such a mob mentality. That, if presented with the dilemma of going along with the crowd or standing alone for what we believe in, we would 100% of the time stand for our principles. But would we? And if not, why not?
Even though his primary message was love, Jesus found himself on the receiving end of a dangerous mob.
“Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him. But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore, I will have him punished and then release him.” But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.” (Luke 23: 13-25 NIV)
How did things get so sideways that the ‘whole crowd’ was calling for his execution?
WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
We’d like to think that we are incapable of giving in to such groupthink, adding our voice to the cry of the crowd. However, psychologists would suggest otherwise.
“Psychological studies have shown that 75 percent of people will ultimately go along and participate in evil acts is a chilling reminder of how easy it is to be persuaded by the group.” (Pete Ross, The Observer, Think You Wouldn’t Do Evil? Think Again)
He is saying that only about 25% of people have the internal fortitude and the psychological strength to resist going against the crowd when that mob mentality presents itself. Which means, if we had been in the crowd that day – or in that group of kids picking on another kid at school, or looting in the middle of a riot, or in Nazi Germany – three out of every four of us would have gone along with it, while only one would have stood up and said, “No!”
What a sobering thought!
Why is that? Why is the allure of the mob so irresistible? What could possibly make me, an educated, rational being with morals and principles, act out in such a way as to violate those principles?
Social psychologists list several reasons, among those being a loss of self-awareness and identity – we lose a sense of who we are and what we stand for – heightened emotions, and a sense of anonymity and a loss of responsibility – no one will know who I am and thus, I can’t be held responsible for what I do.
When we lose a sense of who we are, of whose we are, of what we stand for, and we don’t think we can be held responsible for it, all bets are off.
There is almost nothing that is beyond the scope of possibility for us.
WHAT WILL I DO TODAY?
When we wake up in the morning, we have to ask ourselves, “What kind of person do I want to be?”
This is a message that I preach to my kids pretty regularly. I want them to have a long-range view of life. This thing that they may want to do, that they may want to get caught up in, may take them to a place that they don’t want to go, may take them one step further down a road they don’t want to travel. But it’s not only kids that this is true for. Every day we take a step down a path, and that one step takes us closer to the person we want to be, or further from it.
“Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd.”(Exodus 23)
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
What decisions are you making every day, and what road is that taking you down?
The end goal is to follow Jesus in our actions, thoughts, and words. The things we do, the disciplines we put in place should be what takes us closer and closer to that – to him.
But–It’s a scary thing to be the one who stands out against the crowd.
What if the crowd turns on you? Or worse yet, what if you’re wrong and they’re right? It’s just easier, it’s just safer to go along with the crowd.
But Jesus didn’t call you and me to easy. Jesus didn’t call us to safe. Jesus called us to do the right thing, the most loving thing.
You and I, we belong to Jesus. And his cry, which should be ringing in our ears, even when the cry of the crowd is so loud, says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27) His cry is LOVE.
Love lays a foundation for who you are so that your behaviors will naturally flow from that.
Here are a few ways we can prepare for when the crowd takes a wrong turn:
What am I filling my mind with?
Am I filling my mind with things that draw me closer to Jesus – the Bible, prayer, encouraging music – or inputs that may be drawing me further away – 24-hour news cycle, social media, negative self-talk.
What conversations am I having?
Am I connecting with people who will speak words of life into me, or only those who speak stress and dissension?
How am I taking care of myself?
Am I getting enough sleep? Eating foods that are good for me? Taking time to be quiet before God? Our health and well-being play a big part in our behaviors.
The decisions we make every morning, the steps we take to be secure in who we are, and Whose we are, train us for when the cry of the crowd gets loud.
Watch the full message: