“Acts 5?” my husband, Steve, inquired in an amused tone. “That’s the one with Ananias and Sapphira! Good luck.” I was deeply honored to be asked to share my thoughts on the book of Acts, but also I shared Steve’s opinion that this would be a difficult story to tackle.
The truth is, the chronicle of Ananias and Sapphira messes with our concept of grace. Of redemption. Of God covering our mistakes. We think we have it all together, a nice gospel package with no loose ends. Then we read this story and think: “What am I supposed to do with this?” It’s not easily preachable, is it? And yet it is in there, in the precious Word of God, and we only do ourselves discredit if we don’t tackle it intellectually and spiritually.
God is not predictable. Although His character never alters—He is love unconditional and grace undeserved—the way He moves in and through humanity cannot easily be calculated or mapped. He is an “awesome God,” as the psalmists of old and modern-day psalmist Rich Mullins have said. In his famous song “Awesome God,” Mullins sings: “Judgment and wrath He poured out on Sodom; mercy and grace He gave us at the cross. I hope we have not too quickly forgotten that our God is an awesome God.”
What do I personally take away from the story of Ananias and Sapphira, and what lesson can be gleaned for the body of Christ as a whole? Without coming to any clear theological conclusions on why God chose to judge the couple in this way, it seems fairly clear that I should maintain inner and outer integrity with the Lord and with others.
” ‘You have not lied to men but to God,’ ” Peter tells Ananias in Acts 5:4 (NKJV), and that alone is a clarion call for me to uphold an honesty in my heart toward the Lord that can only be considered ruthless. No hiding from God my true motives and struggles; no manipulation or flattery will be accepted.
The same holds true for the body of Christ. We do ourselves a great disservice when we allow insecurities and fear of what others will think to rule our behaviors, instead of being honest about our personal walk with Christ and our struggles as we go. If God knows everything anyway, why hide it?
This is a tough story with tough lessons that ultimately we learn along with the early church. “I hope we have not too quickly forgotten that our God is an awesome God.”
Kim Cecil with her husband, Steve, is co-pastor of The Journey (Madison-Metro Foursquare Church) in Madison, Wis., and a Heartland District missions representative.
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