Ephesus was a city in ancient Turkey, and it was the location of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, a colossal temple to the goddess Diana, also called Artemis.
Having a temple to one of the gods in your town was like being near Yosemite or the Eiffel Tower. People flock to such sites fora variety of reasons – religious and secular.
Around the Diana/Artemis’ temple various sorts of tourist vendors cropped up peddling likenesses of the many-breasted Diana. “Get your genuine statue of Artemis. You’ll love having this silver ornament on your mantel for all your guests to see. Pray to her when you’re about to give birth or go on a hunting trip. The goddess of women and hunting will help you.”
Of course, the vendors made their livelihood from selling the little silver statues, and they developed a sort of financial addiction to the money they earned. Their wives and children enjoyed the benefits too. It’s hard to give up when your livelihood depends on it. And you don’t like it when people come to town criticizing your vocation.
William Willimon, former Dean of the Chapel at Duke University, tells a story about a community that had a problem with illegal beer and wine sales to minors. A new pastor in the community launched a crusade to clean up the illegal sales. But he did not know that one of the prominent members of his church owned the convenience store across the street from the high school.
The pastor became the former pastor.
What happened to the new pastor was not dissimilar from the attack on Paul when the silversmiths of Ephesus rioted. Paul had to leave town because of them. But not before he changed the minds of many of the Ephesians.
There were some in Ephesus who decided that the goddess was bogus, and they burned all their paraphernalia in order to be Christ followers. One historian estimated the total value of the burned paraphernalia to be 50,000 silver coins. Nothing to be sneezed at.
These Ephesian converts knew they could not follow Jesus and Diana at the same time. The contradictions between the two ways were too obvious to ignore, so they decided not to attempt to straddle the cultural fence.
Decisions like this are hard because they imply a sort of disapproval of the rejected way. Such choices like this inflame people like Demetrius the Silversmith, and the choice takes on new significance.
The writer of Hebrews advised his readers to “pursue peace with everyone,” Hebrews 12:14. Sometimes living with integrity and conviction prohibits that.