I can’t be the only one who spent a great deal of my lockdown time viewing my own face on a small screen as I video-chatted to my friends and family. While real conversations focus on the person we are talking to, virtual ones provide the distraction of ourselves. But it’s not a problem that’s confined to phone calls and taking selfies. If we’re not careful, we can go through life with our focus in entirely the wrong direction.
The end of chapter 4 gives us an inspiring picture of the gospel in action. It describes a Christian life that has social mindedness as a core value, demonstrating the love of God through meeting the needs of those around us. And this isn’t about making ourselves feel better by dropping a couple of tins of beans into the Foodbank box or sending a donation text to a television appeal. “Acts 4 generosity” bursts its banks and flows widely, soaking the community in God’s love.
However, even within this apparently healthy model, we have to be facing the right direction. You see, when Barnabas sold a field and selflessly donated the proceeds, another couple in the church, Ananias and Sapphira, were apparently inspired to follow suit. We don’t know whether their aim was to impress their fellow believers, or to out-do Barnabas’ gift, but their skewed perspective polluted their hearts’ motivation. They ended up conspiring to deceive the apostles, were found out and lost their lives.
Their deaths sent shock waves through the region. Teaching and fellowship continued at Solomon’s Colonnade but 5:13 reveals that those on the fringes stayed away. Hearing stories of how Christians were facing punishment, imprisonment and now even death made discipleship seem dangerous. But it all depends on focus…
It’s true that the apostles were thrown into prison by the religious authorities. To hear of that must have been shocking and worrying and perhaps some will have chosen to abandon the faith and go home. But how much more incredible and a cause for celebration was the re-appearance of those apostles at the Temple courts the next day, carrying on as if nothing had happened! Angels opening locked doors. Prison guards scratching their heads. That’s what can happen when we focus on our calling and the One who calls us, instead of looking at ourselves.
Spend some time thinking about any area of your life which God shows you now, where you have acted through fear and not faith. Search your heart before Him, repenting of poor motives and choices; then thank Him for His forgiveness and ask for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit.