“‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’ The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.'” (Acts 10:14–15, NIV84)
The Gentile soldier, Cornelius, had had the vision that he needed to send messengers to Peter. At the same time, Peter was having his own vision. It was a vision of all kinds of clean and unclean animals descending upon him and a voice telling him to eat. Peter, being the good Jewish boy that he was, responded to the vision with, “No way! I don’t eat anything unclean.” And then the voice from his vision spoke these remarkable words: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” I am certain that Peter was confused. As a Jew he knew it was God who made certain animals clean and others unclean thousands of years prior when the sacrificial laws were created. In his mind, Peter was asking himself what in the world this could mean. How could something that was unclean for millennia now be clean?
The answer: Jesus! In fulfilling everything, Jesus changed everything. He fulfilled the law so perfectly that those dietary and sacrificial laws were no longer necessary. Jesus overcame what would have been many more millennia of rules and regulations about eating and drinking. But there is more, so much more than that. Jesus removed the distinction between clean and unclean people. Jews (Peter) would have considered the Roman soldier Cornelius unclean. He was a Gentile. But soon Peter would see the connection between his vision about unclean food and his perception of unclean people. God was telling Peter, “Do not make distinctions that I Myself don’t make!”
So what about you and me? Do we see certain people, or groups of people, as unclean? Do we not reach out to them with the Gospel of Jesus because deep down we have determined that they are too lost or unworthy? We, too, need to heed the words Peter heard in his vision. We need to be open to any and all. God has commissioned us to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world, not to decide who in the world to proclaim it to. Jesus changed everything! May we allow His Word to change us like it did Peter.