As sidewalk outreach team members, we are usually speaking to people who do not want to hear what we have to say. They are angry we are there and usually would prefer to silence us. As I was reading about Paul speaking to an angry mob in Jerusalem, I realized that there were general principles in how he addressed the crowd that were useful to me as a sidewalk team member. We generally are speaking to individuals, rather than a crowd. When we are on a microphone, we are speaking to a group. In either case, the principles are applicable.
Like us, Paul certainly faced intense adversity and opposition! (Even MORE than we do!!)
The mob had tried to kill Paul initially, “crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore, he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place” (Acts 21:28).
As they were seeking to kill him, news came to the commander of the garrison that “all Jerusalem was in an uproar.” He arrested Paul, and, as he was dragging Paul away, Paul urged him to let him speak to the infuriated crowd. I admire Paul’s boldness and strategy as he spoke.
Below, I outline the major takeaways I derived from his speech to the angry mob and what ensued afterwards:
- Identify with them … speak their language: “And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent …” (Acts 22:2)
- Commend them for what is good and right: ““I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today” (Acts 22:3 ).
- Let them know you (like them) are sinners, deceived, and lost. Be humble and truthful: “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished” (Acts 22:4-5).
- Describe personal testimony of encounter with Jesus: ““Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting'” (Acts 22:6-8).
- Describe God’s call and mission focus He set forth: “So I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do’” (Acts 22:10).
- Describe the transformation of darkness to light: “And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus. “Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at him. Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth” (Acts 22:11-14).
- Expect they will not listen, especially when you speak something they REALLY do not want to accept, and you are likely to face persecution: “ “Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ ” And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!”” (Acts 22:21-22)
- If God has sent you there, those who need to hear the message WILL hear it: “The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear and brought Paul down and set him before them” (Acts 22:30).
- Remain respectful, even in great adversity: “And those who stood by said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” Then Paul said, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people'” (Acts 23:4-5).
- Despite adversity, God is with you and following His plan, no matter what, is always best: “But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome” (Acts 23:11).
This may not be exactly what you hope to happen when you speak to the angry mobs you encounter. We may not relish the idea of withstanding the beatings and imprisonment that Paul encountered; however, the impact you will have when you trust God to guide you and follow His plan is always more than you can imagine. Look at Paul as an example! His influence has expanded and extended to you, me, and countless others, 2,000 years later!