“…he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: ‘Rise, Peter, kill and eat'” (Acts 10:10-13 ESV).
The book of Acts is a historical account of the early Church. It is by no means a complete history, in the same way that the Gospels are not a complete history of the ministry of Jesus. And from this limited historical account we can see the hand of God shaping the early Church, carefully cutting away at their old ways of thinking, and replacing them with a new, grace-infused worldview.
As part of this pruning and grafting, God gave Peter a vision. Historically, the Jews had no dealings with people of any other nation. They were to keep themselves separate, set apart, and distinctive. And, Peter and the other disciples being Jewish, their worldview hadn’t completely changed. But that old way of thinking was preventing the spread of the Gospel by limiting the scope of the evangelized.
Peter’s vision challenged that worldview.
“But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.’ And the voice came to him a second time, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common'” (Acts 10:14-15 ESV).
Peter, at the time, didn’t get the meaning of his vision until the Holy Spirit told him that three men had come to see him, and that he was to accompany them. Now these men were not Jews. When they arrived at their destination, Peter had it figured out. “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean” (Acts 10:28 ESV). So Peter, having grasped this new worldview, preached the Gospel to these Gentiles and led them to faith in Jesus.
While we, the Church, are quite happy to send missionaries to places and peoples in third-world countries, and to other groups of people that are unseemly and make us feel uncomfortable, we are really still holding to the old worldview that some people are “common and unclean”. We really don’t want to get our hands dirty. Our desire to reach the lost has effected our wallets, but not our hearts.
I know that there are exceptions to this. There are churches whose primary desire is to reach the lost in their communities. For this I thank God. And I am by no means saying that we shouldn’t support missionaries that go to any mission field, at home or abroad, for that is part of our calling. I am hoping, however that we can put on different glasses, see the people around us through the lens of the blood of Jesus. It’s not okay to see anyone as beneath us.
When Peter arrived back to the other disciples he was criticized sharply for spending time with non-Jews and eating with them. So Peter recounted his vision to them, and all that had transpired.
“And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction” (Acts 11:12 ESV).
No distinction. That means that we look past the sins to see the sinners, the individuals who, like us, have been condemned to eternal death as a consequence of Sin… apart from Christ. We don’t decide to whom we reach out based on any criteria other than their need for a Savior. No distinction means that one’s race, religion, employment status, handicaps, sexual orientation, gender identification, looks or smells, will exclude them from our loving them through Christ. Our discomfort comes from a faulty worldview.
We need to see the world, and everyone in it, through the eyes of a loving Father. We need to see everyone as those for whom Jesus died.
With no distinction.
**Image from http://www.azquotes.com/quote/662646