Great is Artemis! Don’t Threaten Our Idol!
About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. (Acts 19:23-29)
Have you ever been confused about the reaction of so many churches and church leaders and professing Christians when you called attention to the evil of abuse hiding behind a facade of Christianity? Why do so many people, people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, totally freak out when you point out the existence of evil among them? The thing is widespread. We are not talking about some rare anomaly, but something that really is, well, the norm.
I have seen it and so have most of you. When I first started to really wake up (or rather be woken up by the Lord) to this wickedness lurking in the pews, I was excited about all this truth coming my way. It was extremely freeing because I was being freed from so much of the bondage that had been worked against me for so many years by abusers. But on more than one occasion when I shared what I was learning, here are some of the reactions by one or two “pillars” of the church that tried to shut me down:
- “That is gossip! Don’t ever talk to me about this again!”
- “No! No! No! What is this anyway? You are wrong. You have no evidence. Stop it right now!”
I have no doubt that if these people could have driven me away from our church, they would have done so in a minute. By God’s grace that did not happen. Such people always try to recruit a crowd, like Demetrius did, but this time round it didn’t work. It was the Lord protecting us.
But what is this? Why this instant flare up and rage? I think I can confidently answer that question. It is the result of the very same cause that fueled the riot in Ephesus. At the root of these rioters’ religion was idolatry. “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Their religion, their money, their entire worldview was all wrapped up in an idol. The gospel is a severe threat to false gods and to the people who worship them. Light was shining and the darkness hated it.
And so it is today.
Many local churches, many “eminent saints” in local churches, actually worship an idolatrous “Jesus” fashioned by their own hands. When someone is being set free of the bondage to that idol by the work of the Spirit of Christ in them showing them His truth, well, the Artemis worshipers don’t like it at all. That truth is a threat to everything that they call Christianity. The rank patriarchy. The legalism. The distortions of Scripture regarding forgiveness, reconciliation, love, submission, and mercy. Those perversions of God’s Word start teetering when truth begins to shine. The local church that is so “perfect” turns out to be an idol factory full of wickedness — the whitewashed tomb full of dead, rotten corpses Jesus spoke of. And the idolaters hate this exposure. “Great is our ‘Jesus’! Great is our doctrine of marriage and family and parenting and ‘purity’ and ‘holiness.’ ” These things have long brought “no little business” to these people who are just certain they are serving Christ, so watch them rage and riot in confusion and madness with gnashing teeth when God’s freeing truth comes in among them.
You see, to admit that in fact old Jack over there, a long time pillar of the church and model father/husband, is in fact a wicked, evil man who puts on a convincing disguise at church but is a terror to his wife at home, is to admit that we have been wrong about many, many things. Wrong about evil. Wrong about Jack. Wrong about his wife (we have been blaming her for any problems). Wrong about who a true Christian really is. Wrong about the “health” of our fine church. Turns out that in fact these words of Christ are a more fitting description of our church:
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Rev 3:17)
Once in a very great while, there will be real repentance. But far more often? A riot like Ephesus with idolaters shouting the praises and defenses of their false Jesus.
Where abuse and evil are exposed and where the reaction is that of a riot, you can be sure that the root cause is that you are dealing with idolaters.