Skeletons in the Closet
If you don’t watch as many movies as I do, you may not be able to relate, but have you ever been watching a movie and seen a memorable actor and thought to yourself, “They look…different!”
It happened most recently when a friend of mine and I went to see Iron Man 2. There’s a relatively famous comedian who plays a US Senator, and when he showed up on the screen, I could tell my friend was thinking the same thing as me, “What happened to him?!” The man didn’t have a wrinkle on his face. His lips were swollen. His forehead was puffy. He looked like he’d been on the losing end of a run in with a swarm of bees. Every time he showed up on the screen, I wanted someone to sneak up behind him and jab him with an epipen. Clearly, he’s had a little “work” done.
Then there’s Joan Rivers. Since 1965 she's had bags removed from under her eyes, two complete face-lifts, cheek implants, fat injections, brow smoothing, teeth capping, neck tightening, a tummy tuck, and a nose-thinning. Regarding her obsession with her appearance, she once said, "When you look better, you are treated differently. …People want to be around attractive people."
Now, most of us would scoff at this obsession others have in hiding their physical imperfections. Sure, maybe we try to dress well or look our best. But multiple surgical procedures is just too much.
But I wonder if we aren’t guilty of doing something similar to that when it comes to our spiritual imperfections. I wonder if we don’t go overboard smoothing out all of our spiritual blemishes and wrinkles and flaws. I wonder if we aren’t obsessed with hiding our sin.
That’s why I think we need to see the passages that we’re going to look at this Sunday. It’s easy, especially in our tradition, to think that the early church was this pristine gathering of flawless people. But it simply was not so. In spite of all the wonderful things that God was able accomplish through the first believers; in spite of their courage and willingness to give; the members of the early church were far from perfect.
As we study parts of Acts 5, 6 and 8, we’re going to see that the early church certainly had its flaws. We’re going to see dishonesty, theft, greed, and conflict. For some of us, this might be bad news. It might disrupt our notions of the early church’s perfection. But for others, I hope it will provide relief.
I’m not just trying to throw stones here. I’m not trying to burst anyone’s bubble. And I’m certainly not suggesting that God doesn’t want us to do our best. But maybe if we can spend some time looking at the failings of the people in the earliest church, we can let go of this need to act like we don’t have any of our own. And when we stop hiding, God can really get to work.
—— Robert