This from Michael Horton in “Christless Christianity”
“The message of American Christianity has simply become trivial, sentimental, affirming, and irrelevant.
I think our doctrine has been forgotten, assumed, ignored, and even misshaped and distorted by the habits and rituals of daily life in a narcissistic culture. We are assimilating the disrupting and disorienting news from heaven to the banality of our own immediate felt needs, which interpret God as a personal shopper for the props of our life movie: happiness as entertainment, salvation as therapeutic well-being, and mission as pragmatic success measured solely in terms of numbers.”
Think of the banal, sentimental, affirming, and trivial nonsense most churches trowel out and think about this little discourse on Acts 5 from Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon in “Resident Aliens – Life in the Christian Colony”. Hauerwas and Willimon are commenting on the Pastoral Care exhibited by Peter to Ananias and Sapphira. “In pitiless, dispassionate, and clinical detail, Luke describes the death of the two
deceivers. Those who, like the Wealthy Fool of Luke 12, attempt to secure life through material things receive not life but death. One of Jesus’ own disciples was the first to abandon Jesus for money (Luke 22).
“Luther called security the ultimate idol. And we have shown, time and again, our willingness to exchange anything— family, health, church, truth— for a taste of security. We are vulnerable animals who seek to secure and to establish our lives in improper ways, living by our wits rather than by faith. In the church, in the person of Peter, the lies of Ananias and Sapphira are confronted. Deceit toward one’s self or one’s brothers and sisters in the church leads to death. To our ear, Luke tells the story in a harsh, severe, uncompromising tone. But how is falsehood confronted except in a manner that always seems severe to the one tangled in deceit? The cost of not confronting our deceit is high also: nothing less than the death of our life together. The ancient Didache begins, “Two ways there are, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two ways.” The ethical stance of these early Christians, with their peculiar beliefs about money, was a concrete application of their theological assertions. The church was called to be a colony, an alternative community, a sign, a signal to the world that Christ had made possible a way of life together unlike anything the world had seen. Not to confront lies and deceit, greed and self- service among people like Ananias and Sapphira would be the death of this church. The Epistle of James (1:9- 11)
indicates that more than one early congregation was destroyed by the failure of Christians to keep money in its place. Could that be why, in ending the stark account of Ananias and Sapphira, Luke uses the word church for the very first time in Acts (5:11)? Here, in struggling to be truthful about possessions, the church
experienced itself as a disciplined community of truthfulness.