Daily D – Acts 10:28
Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. ACTS 10:28 (NLT)
A football game was on television. Neither team was the Dallas Cowboys. Eight-year-old Dave asked his dad, “Which ones are the bad guys?”
All jokes aside, professional football is not about good guys versus bad guys. The dad wisely explained this to his son.
It does not take long for us to learn the lesson of who is with us and who is against us, good guys and bad guys. We see this and hear it everywhere all the time. In literature, we have the Montagues and Capulets. In old movies, we have cowboys and Indians. On television, we have CNN and Fox. In the ocean, we have dolphins and sharks.
Brain research explains how we are wired to notice familiar similarities as good, and unfamiliar dissimilarities as, at best, questionable. Sesame Street reinforces this. They show a picture with four items, three of which are alike. Then they sing a little song saying, “One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong.”
Do you belong?
Who gets to choose who belongs and who does not?
Do you remember the presidential news cycle leading up to the elections in 2016? Do you remember how all the news networks pumped up Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? The media loves a good story. To get ratings which lead to advertising dollars, they choose who the heroes and villains are based on well-worn stereotypes. They then tell their stories through those shortcuts. Nuance does not translate well in soundbites.
Consider current news coverage of those places where protestors have created autonomous zones. Are they bold and righteous anti-racism crusaders? Or, are they opportunistic criminals? Or is it that simple?
The old trope states, “One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist.” Good guy or bad guy? Montague or Capulet? Cowboys or Redskins? Hatfields or McCoys? Sharks or dolphins? Simon the Zealot or Matthew the IRS agent?
God gave Peter a new way of looking at people. First, he showed him a vision. Actually, he showed him the same vision three times (Acts 10:9-20). Peter was very big on threes.
He denied Jesus three times.
Jesus asked him if he loved him three times.
He received the same vision three times.
It was kind of like a sermon I heard a while back. The preacher took fifteen minutes to tell us what he was going to tell us. Then he took fifteen minutes to tell us. Then he took another fifteen minutes to tell us what he told us. Peter probably would have liked that.
God showed him in the vision that he should not call unclean or impure anything God had declared clean. Peter knew the rules. He filled the role of a stereotypical Jewish man with his stereotypical pride and prejudice. After the third sheet full of ham sandwiches and fried catfish, Pete agreed with God. Then the centurion’s staff called on him.
The last person on earth Pete would hang out with willingly was a centurion. This is the kind of guy who oppressed and abused Jews. This was the kind of guy who nailed Jesus to the cross. Interesting, isn’t it, that it was three men who came looking for Peter (v. 19). Do you think Pete noticed what God was doing there?
Peter went with those three and took some of his own kind with him as he went. Long story short, we arrive at v. 28: “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean.”
One of these things was not like the others. One of these things just did not belong.
Wrong song. God loves everyone and so should we. God loves everyone, including you and me.
Everyone. Always. Forever. You can look it up. (See Rev. 7:9)
I will see people groups and individuals as God does.
Our Father empower me to see every person and every group of people as you do. Thank you that you love everybody, including me. Bring your grace, healing, and reconciliation to our land and to our world as we move away from the sins of our past. Amen.
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Ruth 1:20, 21 “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,” she answered, “for the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has opposed me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (CSB)