Here is Part Two of a series from guest blogger Matthew Wilhelm.
Acts 5:1-11 – “But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.’…”
You can read the remaining seven verses for yourself, but to summarize, Ananias dies on the spot after saying this and is taken out. His wife, Sapphira, proceeds to tell the same lie only to suffer the same fate as her husband. The passage closes with Luke declaring that “a great fear came upon the whole church” because of these events…and understandably so.
In my previous post (http://mmwleader.com/how-individualism-cheapens-communion/) I wrote about how individualism has contributed to a cheapening of communion in the evangelical tradition. This post is written as a sort of two-fold thought about the body of Christ and its importance, rather than a complaint about the evangelical world. I want to declare this outright: individuals are important in the body of Christ.
Luke includes this in his early church history letter to Theophilus as no random occurrence, but as the first occurrence of discord in the body of Christ. More than just an example of discord, the real human experience behind this passage had to hurt…badly. Think about it. The feelings of betrayal and subsequent distrust had to run deep as people were betrayed by people. Not only this, but Ananias and Sapphira died. These were not some random people on the outskirts, but probably had friends and potentially even family within the church.
The consequences of this offense didn’t rest merely on Ananias and Sapphira, but on the early church as a whole. I think that it’s interesting that Peter frames his question to Ananias as Satan “filling his heart.” It’s as if Peter was suggesting that Ananias had allowed Satan to fill his heart with ideas of the “flesh” – in this case, dishonesty and selfishness – instead of allowing himself to filled with the fruits of the Spirit.
Simply put, the body of the Christ in the local church is comprised of individuals. As much as I condone the denial of an extreme individualism, it’s really important to acknowledge the necessity of spiritual health in the individual. The spiritually healthy individual should allow him/herself to be submerged in the mission, purpose, and care of the community, but the spiritually unhealthy individual can damage all three if not cared for.
It’s so important to remember that even Paul deems the adverse affects of individual sin in the collective as a very serious problem. In Romans 5, Paul points out that it was through the sin of Adam that sin came into the whole world.
As individuals it’s immensely important to pray that the fruits of the Spirit be built up in us daily. There is no such thing as an action that doesn’t affect other people in some way. Living out the fruits of the Spirit in Christian community starts with Christian individuals.