“Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him?
This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!” (John 7:47-49)
Relate: I don’t know if this is true in the rest of the world, but in America we have always been taught that the crowd is evil. We hear things like: “Forge your own path.” “Avoid the crowd.” “Don’t follow the crowd.” Perhaps the most famous poem in history was written nearly a century ago and it winds up with these words: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” It is the epitome of rugged individualism. We raise our kids to hold dear this same value by teaching them to avoid “peer pressure” at all costs. It is the greatest of evils. We encourage them to be unique. (Then when they try we accuse them of being rebellious.) Uniqueness and diversity and individualism are our highest goals.Then we wonder why, in a world with so many ways to connect, we seem to be more lonely than ever.
The fact of the matter is that, not just sometimes, but usually the crowd is a good thing. Counter to the way most of us think sociologists are now saying that it is better to live in a big city. They say that the benefits for art, knowledge, health and wealth all increase exponentially the larger the population center a person lives in. In a symposium on mass gatherings one psychologist, Mark Levine, said that belonging to a crowd can positively influence the way a person sees the world. Stephen Reicher studied those who attended a Hindi pilgrimage called Maha Kumbh Mela which gathered seventy million people, and found that those who attended received health benefits similar to antidepressants except the results were more effective and longer lasting than any pill. Being part of a large group with a common identity and a shared sense of direction and purpose can add ten years to your life. Not only that, it will make all those extra years healthier, happier, and more fulfilling.
React: The religious leaders might as well have been modern Americans. They stuck their noses in the air and looked down on those “ignorant unwashed masses”. They knew that they knew that they were better than the crowd, but in this case the crowd got it right. The crowd knew who Jesus was, but the religious leaders, those rugged individualists, were hell wrong. Perhaps maybe they should have listened to the crowd.
So what is your crowd? Me? The church is my crowd and I will do anything and everything in my power to grow that crowd as large as possible.
One day, God, there will be a crowd of countless people from every tribe and nation gathered around Your throne. There is a great, great cloud of witnesses who have gone before and are cheering us on. I am one, we are one, of a mass of followers running after You. We are part of a huge community of believers gathered to worship You. Head up this crowd, lead this fellowship, in the direction You want us to go. As we collectively follow after You, help us to have fun along the way.