Eugene Cho

the dilemma of self-glorification

Things are going well in the movement and then suddenly, two people drop dead.  That’s the story in Acts 5:1-11 and the dramatic death narrative of Ananias and Sapphira:

“When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened… About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened…At that moment she fell down at his feet and died…”

Let me be honest and say that prior to these recent Sundays, I’ve always managed to avoid preaching on this narrative but this is one of the reasons why I’m a fan of expository teaching.  Whether we like it or not, we are occasionally confronted by such awkward, weird, and uncomfortable passages.

Most of you who were at Quest the past two Sundays have heard all the points so there’s no need to go over all of them.  If you want, you can listen to the two sermons below and subscribe to the podcasts:

Acts 4:36-5:11 | The Dilemma of Self-Glorification Part I [2/24/08]

and here’s Part II  of The Dilemma of Self-Glorification [3/2/08]

But for this blog community, this story exemplifies both harshness and grace.  It all depends on our perspective.  What happens to Ananias and Sapphira is harsh.  Period.  What happens to us is a story of grace.  Because if deception, manipulation and self-glorification is what Ananias and Sapphira are guilty of, we should all be dead.  End of sentence.  Period.  But we’re not and it is a testament of God’s grace.  Why Ananias and Sapphira are judged with physical death [not spiritual damnation] is a mystery to us as the Scriptures are unclear.  We obviously know of their sin but why them and not us.

Ananias and Sapphira saw the response that Barnabas received in Chapter 4.  They envied him; coveted the attention he was receiving and thus conspired to deceive not only the church community but God.  The difference was that Barnabas was convicted by the Holy Spirit but Ananias and Sapphira were deceived by an Unholy Spirit.

But before we applaud the judgment against Ananias and Sapphira, [if we are all honest with ourselves], we should all admit that – to a certain extent – we enjoy being liked, looked upon with respect, elevated, celebrated, etc. But if we’re not careful, we’ll sacrifice our integrity and humility to bring glory for ourselves. The reason why this hypocrisy is so much more devastating and deceiving in the church or in the Christian life is that we use the name of Jesus to bring glory – not unto Jesus but to ourselves. This is why I believe God was so harsh with Ananias and Sapphira. This is the worse hypocrisy.

All of us are susceptible.  But leaders who are visible are especially in danger.  This =  me.

And this is why the last two Sundays have been especially “good” for me.  While I hope and pray that many were blessed and convicted, I was certainly convicted.  

In small but increasing ways, Quest Church and my name is “getting out” – newspaper articles, interviews, photos, inquiries about book possibilities, teaching classes, speaking at small conferences, etc.  Coincidentally, a photographer from the Seattle PI showed up last Sunday to shoot pictures which was awkward esp. in light of the message.  [I was scared I might get struck down.]

And while this is not meant to sound arrogant, I believe that our “deeper years” are only ahead of us.  And so, I write this entry to simply confess that I need to be careful.  I don’t ever want to compromise the process for the product; to exchange Christ for celebrity; to increase so that Jesus decreases; and to allow hypocrisy to seep through my life that I can’t be honest with my shortcomings.

In short, I need Jesus.  Thank you Jesus for your mercy and grace.

Filed under: religion

5 Responses

  1. KL says:

    Eugene,
    I just appreciate your heart. I think as long as we remain honest and humble, the Lord will be honored.

  2. Peter Choi says:

    Eugene,
    after reading that, i want to take you out for a round of golf. thank you for your constant risks in being real and vulnerable. it ministers to me very much.

  3. dennis says:

    You arrogant jerk!

    Just kidding. Seriously, thank you for your honesty, Like you said, if we’re all honest, we all want to appear “more” than we are.

    Keep pressing on.

  4. justin says:

    are you considering writing a book? i have a good friend who’s an agent. she’s the wife of the pastor that married jeannie and me. anyways, we can talk more about it tonight if you want. i just didn’t want to forget.

  5. Pastor Eugene, thanks for your honesty and humility.

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One Day’s Wages

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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