By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN
“You have not lied to people — you have lied to God.” — Acts 5:4
“It is very alarming. The election system is being attacked here. This is no good.” These are the exact words of Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr., as pieces of evidence of massive cheating and other forms of electoral fraud are being unveiled by courageous men and women before the eyes of the Commission on Elections.
Cheating during elections in our country is not actually a new phenomenon. It is already an endemic practice and accepted reality in Philippine politics. In fact, many are jokingly saying that no one in our country really lost an election; either you won, or you were cheated.
What is more alarming though is not so much the existence of massive cheating, rather the fact that no one among those accused of cheating, past or present, are being investigated and punished. On the contrary, they are even rewarded with juicy positions in government, while those who courageously exposed the evil deeds are the ones being persecuted and considered traitors or enemies of the state.
But what is most alarming is that there seems to be a massive apathy among our people; no one seems to care anymore even if cheating is happening right before their own eyes! Hence, a culture of impunity is slowly being developed that would ultimately render the whole political system entirely rotten. And surely the whole system would collapse in due time unless something is done to redeem it.
Cheating in the Early Church
The Christian community, though religious as it is, has never been exempted from cheating. The Early Christians also encountered this reality of cheating in their own community. According to the Book of Acts, the early believers had their glorious moment of being together, caring for each other, sharing what they have so that no one among them would be in need (cf. Acts 4:32-35).
Then, there was this man named Barnabas, who became an object of praise and appreciation by everyone. He sold his field, brought the money, and turned it over to the apostles. Everyone was so encouraged by his expression of generosity. But there was this couple named Ananias and Sapphira who also wanted to be like Barnabas. And so, they sold some of their properties, but they hid part of their money for themselves and turned over the rest to the Apostles, making it appear that they already gave everything they had.
But Apostle Peter confronted them, saying: “You have not lied to people – you have lied to God.” (Acts 5:4) And upon hearing Apostle Peter’s words of truth, they were struck dead, first Ananias then his wife Sapphira.
Truth vs. cheating
Now, there are several lessons we could learn from the experience of the Early Church. First of all, although cheating also marred the moral purity of the Early Christian Community, the practice did not prosper because of the strong moral sanction against the offenders. The whole community led by the apostles did not take lying and cheating sitting down. They knew for sure that an evil practice would prosper, if they would allow it to happen and would not do anything to prevent it.
Ananias and Sapphira felt such moral sanction heavily upon themselves as the truth was unveiled before their eyes. They might have felt a strong sense of shame for what they did. Like today’s politicians they wanted so much to serve their fellow Christians and become popular among the people and be appreciated like Barnabas, but because of lying and cheating it turned out to be the opposite.
We are not very sure about the specific cause of the couple’s sudden death. But today, we know for sure that those who suffer sudden death are those who experience heart attack or stroke. And in many cases, heart attack or stroke could be triggered by a strong emotional problem within the person. Well, we are not praying that those who lied and cheated in the last elections would suffer the fate of Ananias and Sapphira. But nevertheless, the universal principle still remains that our action determines our destiny. What you reap is what you sow.
Moreover, the story of Ananias and Sapphira also reminds us that lying and cheating is not only a sin against the people; it is also a sin against God. In fact, Apostle Peter was emphatic in saying that Ananias and Sapphira lied and cheated not against the people, but against God Himself. God is a God of truth, and therefore, anything we do against the truth is an offence against the God of truth. Lying and cheating are offences against the truth.
It is sometimes sickening to see on television or read in the newspapers politicians and election officers lying to their teeth. And we could not help thinking why God do not strike them dead right there and then, like Ananias and Sapphira.
But perhaps, God does not work that way, rather He is calling us to be His instruments, like Apostle Peter, in courageously confronting the liars and cheaters of our time. Indeed, our prayers and appreciation go to those who are risking their lives in exposing the massive cheating in their own communities in order for the truth and the people’s will to triumph. May God’s Spirit of truth rest and abide with you always. Amen. #