Acts 10:13-15. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”
We all have those things in our lives that we use to justify keeping ourselves separated from others. Often we call them convictions. And although convictions can be a good thing, misguided convictions can be a way to self-justify. Our convictions can become the things that in our own minds make us better than others. More godly. More righteous. More acceptable.
For Peter his convictions were connected to the Mosaic Law. More specifically the “clean laws” from Leviticus. The clean laws listed all the things that were clean and unclean. Pure and impure. Including foods. These laws were meant to be an outward picture of an inner holiness. So for a good Jew this meant not eating common or unclean foods as a demonstration that you were also inwardly holy. So you can imagine Peter’s surprise in Acts 10 when God gives him a vision of unclean animals and tells him to rise kill and eat.
But this visual lesson from God for Peter is about much more than dietary restrictions. It’s about love. It’s about the gospel. If you take a few moments and read all of Acts 10 you’ll see that God wants to send Peter to the home of an “unclean” Gentile centurion named Cornelius. But notice Peter’s statement when he gets to Cornelius’ house:
Acts 10:28. And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation,”
The same law that was supposed to promote holiness had begun to prevent love. And the truth is that there actually is no such law forbidding Jews from eating with Gentiles in the Old Testament. Peter has missed the whole point of the law, which is to love your neighbor as yourself – including the Gentiles. Peter has also missed the whole point of Jesus and the gospel. The Jesus who served Gentiles, ate with Gentiles, loved Gentiles, and then sent the twelve disciples out to the Gentiles with the gospel.
But there’s hope for Peter (and for us). God is slowly changing his heart (and hopefully ours). The vision of animals on a sheet wasn’t about animals on a sheet. It was about reaching people. And Peter is beginning to see it.
Acts 10:28b. but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.
The convictions that once separated him from others have been replaced with a new conviction. A conviction about the grace of God for all, the love of God for all, and the openness of God to all.
Acts 10:34-35. “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
There is so much that divides us today. Race. Gender. Age. Culture. Background. Politics. Ideologies. And of course convictions. What convictions do you hold to that allow you to separate yourself from others? Where in your own mind are you saying like Peter once did, “It would be bad for me to associate with THOSE people.”? Where has your pursuit of “righteousness” increased division rather than broken down walls?
Before Christ, God ordained one division of humanity – Jew and Gentile. Covenant people and non-covenant people. And this division was meant for the salvation of the Gentiles through the witness of the Jews. But Christ has torn down that dividing wall of the old covenant by his sacrificial death on the cross and his mediating of the new covenant.
Now it is union with Christ alone that divides humanity. Every person is either in Christ or in Adam. We are not divided by God’s law and we definitely aren’t divided by mankind’s superficial divisions like race, economics, status, education, politics or anything else. We are only divided by our position in Christ. And why are we in Christ? So that we can stay separated from those that are in Adam? No! We are in Christ so that we can be a light to those that are in Adam. Ambassadors. Witnesses. Disciple makers. Peters on our way to Cornelius’ house.
“To live is Christ” means you are no longer separated from God. And it means you are separated from those who are not yet in Christ. But not so that you can stay separated. We have been brought out of the world so that we could be sent back into the world. Not hiding behind our convictions. But living from the conviction that the gospel alone can unite all mankind.
In what ways have you tried to remain separated from others?
You in Christ
In Christ you are separated from those that are in Adam, but separated in order to be a light in the darkness. How does this inspire you today?
Christ in you
How can you take the light of Christ into the world today?
Playlist: Reaching the World.
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