Remember the good old days when controversy meant wearing Jeans in Church? It sounds ridiculous now and no one had to die to resolve it. I just watched the movie Lincoln and witnessed the savage loss of life over the controversy of owning another human as a slave. Even in the current religious climate we are not shy of controversies dividing our ranks. Ironically the early followers of Jesus dealt with controversy in a way that we would do well to imitate.
Piggies in a blanket being lowered from heaven. This in essence was Peters vision as recorded by Luke in Acts 10. Sure there were reptiles and birds, but the point is they were all unclean. In this vision He is told he can eat what He was raised to believe was unclean, because if God declares something clean, then it’s clean. It would take alot more than a dream to convince Peter to eat Bacon. Only After meeting a Gentile Centurion named Cornelius, Peter discovers that not only does God want to be involved in the lives of non Jews, he already is. I find the shock of Peter, a disciple of Jesus refreshing. It’s ok that I am surprised at what God is up to because apparently even the disciples didn’t have it pegged down.
Peter does the unthinkable, he travels and enters the home of this Gentile and eats with him. This breaks all Jewish religious and social taboos. Lets just pause and comprehend how controversial this is. This goes against what the Old testament taught. This act of hospitality renders Peter unclean. I think Peter is surprised to find God already at work in this man’s life. This makes me think that we don’t own the truth, we merely embrace it. This man is not only a believer, but he is generous-his spirituality is bearing fruit. In Luke’s account it seems that everyone is amazed. Peter is amazed at what he discovers about Cornelius and about God. Cornelius is amazed that God not only observes human activity but is interested in involvement. “We are all here in the sight of God” Cornelius says. His emphasis here not only suggests that God was aware of the meeting, but approved of it and desires to influence it. God orchestrates life amongst all the living, and those of us who can witness it, can be changed by it. I love how Elizabeth Browning puts it:
“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes – The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”
I used to think that I would carry the good news of God around in me like a suitcase, waiting for opportunities to open it up and share it. My prayer used to be for God to join me in what I was doing. I have come to realize that I had it backwards, I am to join God. I believe he is actively involved in peoples lives, some aware and some not. What if we really believed that inside every person is the image of God? Who would be in our blanket, if the vision was ours? Like Peter I think we have assumed a lot about certain people of different religions and lifestyles. But I hope just like Peter we are surprised to discover God where he is. What if we lived our lives in such a way as to celebrate it with those who know, and help reveal it in those who don’t.
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