I don’t know about you, but when I read this passage, the phrase that really jumps out to me is ‘what God has made clean, you must not call profane’. Profane here could also be translated as ‘common’ meaning basically the opposite of sacred. I wonder whether there is anything I think of as common or the opposite of sacred that perhaps God wants to use for his glory. I wonder if my judgement as to what is sacred and what is profane truly is in line with God’s, or whether, like Peter, I need God to show me what he thinks.
With that in mind, let’s look again at the passage. Peter is a good Jew. Good Jews don’t eat the kinds of animals Peter sees in his vision of the sheet. Pigs, reptiles, birds of prey are all off the menu in a Jewish household. The rules about unclean and clean foods in Leviticus 11 make this pretty clear. They are supposed to keep kosher. The reason for this is that the Jewish people are a holy nation, set apart for God. They display their purity and holiness through obeying God’s laws, which include both moral laws and rules about ritual purity. But here in this passage in Acts we see God doing a new thing. A new thing promised right from when he chose Abraham. And it is exciting.
Abraham, was promised that all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. We see glimpses of this in the Old Testament when people from other nations, like Rahab and Ruth, become part of God’s family in spite of not being of Jewish descent. But here in the book of Acts we see how God’s rescue plan in sending his son Jesus is not just for the Jews but for the Gentiles, the non-Jews, too.
At the time, Jews wouldn’t have even considered eating with non-Jews. But now with these food restrictions lifted, the way is opened further for Peter to visit Cornelius, a God-fearing Roman, which we’ll hear about in the next daily devotional. In the rest of Acts and the letters of St Paul we see how God meets with gentiles and how the Jews scrambled to keep up theologically with this movement of God. We see the early church trying to wrap their heads around whether or not to encourage non-Jewish converts to Christianity to keep the whole Torah with all its purity laws. We see later on in Acts 15 that barriers to becoming a Christian were being gradually removed and what was deemed to be essential refined. Non-Jewish christians did not have to keep kosher or get circumcised for example. And the legacy of this is us- the worldwide church is made up of many nationalities. God shows no partiality. His rescue plan through Jesus is for people from every tribe and tongue.
So how does this impact us now? We know that our saviour Jesus Christ a saviour for all people, and we need to tell people about Him!
Also I feel challenged by the verse ‘what God has made clean, you must not call profane’. To be fair to Peter, in not wanting to eat the unclean food on the sheet, he was simply obeying the Torah. He needed a vision from God to show him that it was now acceptable to eat these things and to eat with non-Jews. But perhaps there is a parallel for us now. Perhaps as christians we can be guilty of expecting people to look and behave like us before they can become Christians. But our God welcomes all. To use a somewhat glib example, you don’t need to like quiche, drink tea and wear retro knitwear to become a part of God’s family.
Let us pray,
Father God, thank you that your saving grace extends to all who put their trust in you. Thank you for including me in your family. I pray that you would forgive me for times when I have been judgemental towards others or put a limit on your love. I pray that you would use me to be a light to the nations. Help me to see others through your eyes – with love, compassion, and a longing for them to come into your kingdom,