‘Do Not Follow the Crowd for Evil Ends’
PUBLIC demonstrations and mass protests are the order of the day, particularly in the nations making up what is called “Christendom.” Many who are normally quiet, nonassertive citizens participate, and even clergymen have been active, promoting and engaging in these forms of protest—pressure by force of numbers.
There is no doubt that there are injustices and that a large percentage of these mass actions present some valid grievance. Often the participants feel that this is the only way to get a hearing ear.
But is it wise for a person to engage in such public demonstrations? Many have started out peaceably enough. But they have ended in violence or riot. Why?
There is a “crowd psychology” that gives individuals a feeling of anonymity. Because their identity does not stand out as sharply in a crowd, persons feel free to do what they might ordinarily never think of doing. But one participating in crowd action shares the blame for whatever the crowd, or individuals in it, may do.
Officials and judges have also been pressured by fear of the crowd to disregard the law and their own consciences. To avoid occurrence of this in ancient Israel, God’s law as now recorded in the Bible, said: “You must not follow after the crowd for evil ends; and you must not testify over a controversy so as to turn aside with the crowd in order to pervert justice.”—Ex. 23:2.
This command was directed primarily to judges and to witnesses in legal cases, who might be swayed by the crowd to render a perverted judgment or give false testimony. Likewise, it applied to those who would conspire together to put pressure on judges or men in administrative positions.
Results of Following the Crowd
The most flagrant instance of ‘following the crowd for evil ends’ was what took place at the trial of Jesus Christ. The chief priests stirred up a mob and fanned a blazing spirit of hatred among the people toward Jesus. So, before the Jewish High Court, many were ready to testify falsely to pervert justice. Finally, Christ was led before Pilate, who sat as judge with power of life and death.—Matt. 26:47, 59-61.
Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but the crowd clamored for his death. (John 18:29-32, 38-40) Whereas the Jews generally hated Roman rule, crowd “psychology” made it the popular thing to hail Caesar as king and to cry for Christ’s blood. (John 19:12-16) Pilate should have stood for justice, but because of fear he followed the crowd. But the matter could not be lightly dismissed and forgotten. All involved had to account for their bloodguilt. Just fifty-two days later, because of the national guilt, many “were stabbed to the heart” when the apostle Peter said to them: “Let all the house of Israel know for a certainty that God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you impaled.” (Acts 2:36, 37) The burden of murder lay upon the crowd, collectively and individually!
As for cowardly Pilate, he was later removed from office as Roman governor and died in exile. Jerusalem paid for its bloodguilt when its erstwhile “friendship” with Caesar proved to be false, ending in strife and the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in 70 C.E.
Is There Another, Effective Remedy?
However, there are some entirely different situations, such as where a group is suffering injustice. How, then, aside from group pressure, can its members get a hearing ear? What other remedy is there?
As to the dilemma of an individual, or a group, in many parts of the world there are legal remedies that can be used. But what if the normal legal remedies do not work? Perhaps politicians will not be moved to make the desired changes and judges may not dispense justice because of greed or cowardice. Then a minority group will not receive what they consider to be justice and impartiality.
Well, human reasoning may deem it best to use mass pressure. Due to such pressure a judge or magistrate may feel that it is expedient to go along with the crowd. But such tactics only tend toward further breakdown of the law, generally doing injustice to another segment of society.
Actually, there is no prospect of getting full and complete justice in this present system of things, as has been the case throughout history. When have minority groups been completely happy? Despite mass protests and uprisings, the same old system continues, with oppressions and injustices. That is because the world is fundamentally wicked, corrupt, not of God. (1 John 5:19; Gal. 1:4) Today, when complaints, demonstrations, protests, strikes, riots and violence are at their peak, it is time for God to step in to set matters straight. This he has promised, and soon he will bring it about. In the meantime, what can people do who are interested in true justice and righteousness?
God tells honest, sincere persons: “If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.” (Rom. 12:18) His command to Christians is: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities.” (Rom. 13:1) If existing authorities misuse their power, it is not the duty of the Christian to try to overthrow them. Nor is it the province of Christians to advocate, promote or engage in demonstrations, mass protests or strikes.
In taking this course Christians are not foolish. They simply are not frustrating themselves by trying to do what only God can and will do. They hold to the Bible’s command: “Keep silent before Jehovah and wait longingly for him. Do not show yourself heated up at anyone making his way successful, at the man carrying out his ideas. Let anger alone and leave rage; do not show yourself heated up only to do evil. For evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth.”—Ps. 37:7-9.
It is not a matter of waiting a lifetime, or—now—even many long years. Today we see injustice practiced on every hand—earth wide. This is a sure precursor of action by God, just as King David himself experienced: “I have seen the wicked a tyrant and spreading himself as a luxuriant tree in native soil. And yet he proceeded to pass away, and there he was not; and I kept seeking him, and he was not found.” (Ps. 37:35, 36) So, instead of using worldly tactics, wait upon God.
If we learn of God’s purpose, his ways and requirements, we will be protected from making the mistake of following the crowd, the ends of which turn out, not to the praise of God, but merely to add turmoil and trouble in the critical “last days” of this system of things.—2 Tim. 3:1-5.