Open Your Bible
Acts 10:1-48, Isaiah 52:7-10, Galatians 4:4-5
It can take a long time to form new habits. Two weeks, perhaps. Maybe three months. Maybe longer. Think of a woman who discovers halfway through life that she’s lactose intolerant and suddenly has to reorient her life around dairy-free recipes. (Or at least dairy without lactose!) She’ll probably slip up a few times in the beginning. It’s a whole new way of thinking. Or picture the college girl the day she moves into a dorm when she’s never had to live with someone her own age before. Now that she’s sharing a room, she may not get to blast her favorite music anymore or keep the reading lamp on until after midnight. She’ll have to form some new habits. It takes time for anyone to unlearn old ways of thinking in order to learn new ones.
When I read today’s passage about Peter’s vision, I can’t help but think about habits. Before the time of Christ, Jews had long formed the practice of eating certain foods and avoiding others. There were ceremonial laws against food considered unclean, and the animals, reptiles, and birds Peter observed in this sheet coming down from heaven were definitely on that list (Acts 10:11–12). The Jewish people were walking in a deeply ingrained habit of only eating ceremonially clean meat and, by extension, not associating with those deemed unclean. So, this vision of Peter’s is a challenge to not just form a new habit—treating the Gentiles as equals—but to unlearn an old one.
People like Peter formed the habit of avoiding what was impure as a way to try and honor God. But after Christ carried out His ministry on earth and ascended into heaven, the early Church was left with a brand new mission. And it was a hard one to swallow! This is why a voice has to tell Peter not once, but three times of this new way of thinking (isn’t this so like Peter?): “What God has made clean, do not call impure.” (v.15).
After Peter visits Cornelius in Caesarea, we hear this beautiful statement from his lips: “God has shown me that I must not call any person impure or unclean” (v.28). What an incredible glimpse into God’s heart! Providentially, the disciples weren’t so ingrained in their habitual ways of living that they couldn’t take on a new way. No, they were open to change even in their confusion and went on to bring the good news to the Gentiles, just as Christ asked them to, so that the whole world might see “the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10).
Like with all of us, it took a little bit of time, but they were able to take on this new life in Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit. The same invitation is there for us.