Gospel News · Sep-Dec 2012
of groupthink was greater than that of their individual conscience; a whole group ended up doing something unthinkable, when the majority knew it was wrong.
A study of "the princes" of Judah at the time of the final Babylonian invasion shows that they were not against Jeremiah nor of responding to God's word (Jer. 26:16; 36:14,19); indeed at one stage they pulled back from their path of refusing to respond (Jer. 34:10). But "the princes" were the ones whom Zedekiah feared (Jer. 38:25), and that fear led him to reject God's word. And "the princes" were finally condemned for their weakness (Jer. 32:32); it was they who imprisoned and sought to kill Jeremiah because ultimately they could not abide his word (Jer. 37:15; 38:14).
One person can easily lead a whole group, even of believers, into sin. It was specifically Judas who criticized the extravagant anointing of the Lord (Jn. 12:4,5); but all the disciples actually said it (Mt. 26:8; Mk. 14:4).
And so it is that whole groups of people- even God's people- can be very fickle. The history of David's final years shows this. "The people" were totally loyal to David; then to Absalom; then back to David; then to Adonijah and other pretenders to the throne; then back to David. "The crowd" were initially loyal to John the Baptist and then to Jesus- "the world has gone after him", was the Jewish leadership's frustrated comment. But the same crowd who cried "Hosanna!" were screaming "Crucify Him!" just days later. And the same "crowd" were just two months later deeply moved by Peter's preaching, so that the Jewish authorities were again frustrated by the widespread support for the Jesus movement.
Searching our own lives and reflecting upon the lives of those known to us reveals the same tendency- heights of devotion one day compared to miserable failure the next. Those who once sacrificed all for the sake of the Truth- now indifferent, or even atheist or agnostic. People who would die for each
other in love and care, cooling off over months and years into apathy. Brethren who once seemed so strong in faith suddenly come out on internet forums admitting they no longer really believe in God nor even desire to be in His Kingdom. Human beings are fickle and psychologically weak and frail. The frailty or weakness of humanity is a major Bible theme; and the weakness in view is not so much physical as moral and mental. We tend to assume better of ourselves and of others. A hard word or email, a rejection... may do deep damage to another person, although that damage may not be immediately apparent. Recognizing the frailty of others will bring us to a sensitivity towards them which requires constant self-control and self- analysis of our words and unspoken messages. And to live sensitively in this increasingly desensitized world is not only very hard, it is part of picking up the cross of our Lord and following Him to the same painful death.
Focus Upon The Cross
The Bible abounds with images of stability. God is presented as a rock, and we are to build our house upon the rock of obedience to His word. We are to have the unwavering faith which is not "like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed" (James 1:6). The image of being blown around is also used in Eph. 4:14: "Henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, carried about with every wind of doctrine [teaching]". There are those who read something on the internet, hear an idea compellingly presented by a teacher somewhere, and they are shaken by it, "carried about of winds" (Jude 12; Heb. 13:9). In those passages, the same Greek word for "carried about" is used; and the only other time Paul uses it is in speaking of how he "always carried about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus" (2 Cor. 4:10). And here we begin to see one antidote for such instability: A conscious, daily commitment to share in something of the crucifixion sufferings of Jesus, in hope and even present experience of His resurrection life breaking forth into our personal experience. We