We are pleased to have Brooke, from ExpertTextperts, return as our guest.
I was reading the book of Acts (because when your religion class is Christian History it’s still more a religion class than a history class, and also why would you ask that?), or as my favorite apostle, Jeffrey R. Holland, has affectionately renamed the book: “The Acts of the Resurrected Christ Working through the Holy Spirit in the Lives and Ministries of His Ordained Apostles.” (See Acts 1)
Anyway, as I was saying—I was reading the book of Acts in the 10th chapter. This chapter has a couple of stories most people are very familiar with. Cornelius the Centurion is fasting and around 3 pm he says a prayer. An angel visits him and tells him to seek out this guy, Simon Peter who happens to be living in Joppa with a guy named Simon, who is a tanner. Cornelius is a faithful guy and wastes no time; he sends three men to find Simon Peter, which men leave the very next day.
These three guys are coming close when Peter is praying around noon and has his own vision, which initially seems to be completely unrelated. A picnic blanket full of foods that are very much the opposite of kosher (think entire slabs of bacon) pops up in front of him and tells him to eat. You may think that he’s just hallucinating from praying in the noonday sun on top of the roof, but this is a vision telling Peter that the times they are a changing. Peter protests and then thinks about what happened for a while. In his meditations, the Spirit whispers to him and tells him there are men looking for him. This would freak me out, but Peter goes to meet them.
Cornelius’ men have a sleepover with Simon Peter and the next day they all head back to Cornelius’ house, complete with a party of Peter’s buddies from Joppa. When they get there, Cornelius has organized his own party to hear what Peter has to say. Greeting Peter at the door, Cornelius leads them all into the house to meet everyone. That’s the part of the chapter we seem to be most familiar with, probably because Sunday School discussions have at this point led us too far off topic and we ran out of time.
Here’s the cool part.
The first thing that Peter does upon meeting this group of Gentiles is announce that Jews being friends with Gentiles is against the Law of Moses. Um, not cool, Peter, not cool. But then he follows that up by saying that God corrected this idea, it is now officially a fallacious sentiment. Specifically, he says, “God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (KJV, Acts 10:28).
I don’t mention this to make anyone feel judgmental; this is a much a call to repentance for myself as it is for anyone else. No one is common. No one is unclean. The more popularly quoted scripture comes a bit later in verse 34, stating, “God is no respecter of persons.” But I prefer the version in verse 28. I should not call anyone common or unclean. We teach our Young Women that everyone is divine in nature. This is the underlying principle here. No one gets shunned, no one gets left out, and no one is common or unclean.
Now, for the record, “unclean” goes beyond a day or two without a shower. “Common or unclean” has a stronger connotation in terms of the Law of Moses—common or unclean things landed you in a literal Mosaic purgatory. If you came into contact with something common, you usually made an animal sacrifice after a few days or so of living in solitary confinement. In this way, the “holier than thou” attitude was taught in a literal sense for years, but the big difference between Judaism and Christianity was the Gospel of peace. Christ’s mission was to shift the entire Judaic paradigm (fun fact: the word “Christ” comes from the Septuagint translations, yay Hellenization!). If you’ll recall, the first four Gospels cover a lot of Christ spending time with publicans, sinners, and other “unclean” types. The Pharisees and Sadducees—two Jewish groups who famously didn’t agree on hardly anything—judged Christ harshly for the company he kept. The apostles spent approximately 3 years with him in the flesh as well as an additional 40 days with the resurrected Christ and up to this point they just didn’t get it. The entire time, Jesus had tried to teach them by example that society was changing; the separation between clean and unclean or Jew and Gentile had to go. Now, through a revelation, Peter finally got it and proved that everyone is equal before God and you have no excuse to stand “holier” than anyone else. No one is common or unclean.
Given this revelation, I’d be willing to bet that Peter would have been your friend. I’ll try a bit harder to be your friend too.
No one is common or unclean.