I remember when the Berlin Wall came down. What an amazing event that re-drew the maps of Eastern Europe and signaled the end of the Cold War as I had known it all my life. A wall of division was removed and a whole new world of freedom was dawning for the people of East Germany.
In Acts 10 we are introduced to a new character in the story – Cornelius, the Roman centurion living in Caesarea. He is described as a “God-fearer”, meaning he was a gentile who had been attracted to the Jewish faith but had not become a Jewish proselyte. He prayed regularly and was generous with needy people. He was conscious of God, spiritually minded and kind. Sounds like a good man. Yet when the angel appears to him it’s not to tell him he’s fine just as he is, but rather to point him towards Peter. What does that tell us about what it actually is that God wants for humanity?
Like a movie, our story cuts to Peter who has a highly unusual vision. A sheet with all sorts of animals that were off the menu under the dietary restrictions of the Mosaic Law. Where does the sheet come from, and what does that indicate to you? God commands Pete to “kill and eat”, but he recoils from this picnic of uncleaness. Peter protests with the words “I have never eaten the common or unclean things”. God’s response is powerful and important. Obviously, given the entire context, this was about more than food (it included food), this was about people and the end of the Old Covenant restrictions. This was a long held belief on Peter’s part that God had to up-end. God tore down the wall of hostility. As I contemplate the ramifications of what God is saying in this passage, I feel compelled to examine my heart. Are there people who I still consider common or unclean? What beliefs or traditions have you felt God challenging you about in your Christian journey? How should we understand God’s priorities when it comes to religion and people?
The whole story of the church changes at this juncture. The impact of this chapter is still felt by us today. I think this will be a fascinating study – hope to see you there!