solidarity :: an Acts to grind.

mjkimpan  —  September 24, 2012 — 16 Comments

this post is a continuation of our solidarity series in which we are exploring the teachings of jesus in relation to his commitment to the Other. for those interested in measuring the orthodoxy of such an adventure, click here to see my theological non-negotiables.

in the meantime… i’ve got an Acts to grind.

peter had just done the impossible.

he healed a paralyzed man simply by speaking the name of jesus. shortly thereafter he told a dead girl to wake up, and she did. everyone in town believed.

some thought peter himself was worthy of worship. he knew he was just a man… but he also knew the words the Rabbi had spoken to him :: ‘tend to – feed – my sheep.

those words played in peter’s mind every single day. they carried a weight and responsibility that at times was as daunting as the promise – upon him the church would be built, and the gates of hell would not prevail. love would have the final word.

feed my sheep. tend to them.

peter daily searched the hebrew scriptures to see new ways his previous understanding of God had been deepened through knowing jesus and his teachings.

‘you’ve heard it said, but i say to you…’

‘it is written, but…’

the way jesus taught the scriptures – the way he expanded on and fulfilled them – was unlike anything peter had previously imagined. the understanding everyone had before jesus came was like a black and white sketch that needed to be shaded in with divine color – like a skeleton, waiting for skin.

when jesus spoke, it was evident he really knew the heart of God. he explained the law and the prophets in terms that put meat on the bones of their skeletal understanding of YHWH.

and every morning since the spirit came – since pentecost  – peter poured over the scriptures to find more ‘meat.’

this particular morning his reading made peter’s head spin. leviticus. the abominations listed caused the apostle’s stomach to turn with disapproval; still, he was beginning to feel the pangs of hunger. it was almost lunchtime.

he went up on the roof to pray while his host, simon, prepared a kosher meal.

then all hell broke loose.

peter saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. on the sheet were all kinds of four-footed animals, along with reptiles and birds.

nearly all the animals were unclean, as peter had just read in the scriptures. even the animals that weren’t forbidden were made unclean simply by being with the beasts that were forbidden. it was guilt by association.

a giant sheet descending from heaven, full of things detestable and unclean to the first century jew. by law. by the scriptures.

a voice told him, ‘get up, peter. kill and eat.’

peter thought it must have been a test. jesus had tested him before, too.

‘peter, do you love me?’ again. and again.

peter almost expected the voice to ask the question three times. God always seemed to do things in threes when he wanted to make a point.

nothing unclean has ever entered my lips,’ peter replied. ‘i won’t do it.‘ a test. just as he thought. he was planning on passing with flying colors. after all, he’d just read leviticus.

but the next part, peter did not expect.

‘do not call anything impure that God has made clean. what God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’

peter fell into a trance, confused. he refused to listen. the scriptures couldn’t be any more clear – it was forbidden. unclean. sinful.

then God spoke again,

‘do not call anything impure that God has made clean. what God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’

predictably, this happened three times, and then the sheet was taken back to heaven.

peter was perplexed.

almost immediately after the sheet ascended with the forbidden meat, servants from a gentile household came asking for peter to come with them to stay and eat with their master.

co-mingling with gentiles? also forbidden.

that’s when it clicked for the apostle.

you yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that i should not call any man unholy or unclean…for God is not one to show partiality.

what had been considered unclean, was now clean. what was once unlawful, was now lawful. what had previously been prohibited, now was permitted. this opened the door for those once considered ‘out’ to be invited into the kingdom of God.

so where does this leave us in our discussion on solidarity? is it possible that in jesus all things are made new? are there divisions that still ought to exist, as outlined by the scriptures – or is there provision for all people through christ?

is this relevant to some theological conversations today?

what do you think?

  • Erika

    Here is my main issue with people/Christians who are so vehemently against homosexuality. (I’m going to try and write this as clearly as I can.) I’ve heard time and time again, hate the sin, love the sinner and I don’t hate gay people, just what they do is wrong, and I wish them no ill will, but they knew what they were getting into, etc. etc. Here, though, is what’s been laid on my heart lately, there is no separation from the person and their sexual preference. If a gay person was truly born that way, and I think the majority, if not all, would say they were, then it’s not a choice really. It is Them. I’m having a problem believing God could condem someone when he made them that way. Or is it really expected that they have no relations their whole lives? That’s an honest question, is that what people feel they should do?

    I hope I’m not off topic, I think this fits in with what you’re trying to say.

    • David

      I personally want to be like Jesus, and by wanting that then I hopefully see the world through the eyes of Jesus. Nowadays I treat people in these different ways, as a brother or sister, or a mother or father. What their lives are like is not up to me, yes I will have discussions but not judgments or condemnations, as it is not my place to do that. That is because I have parts of my own life that are not right, and my continued walk with Jesus hopefully changes that. My ambition is to be holy. I look at Luke 4 v 16-18, and that is what I trying to make my mission statement too, there is no condemnation, there is caring and kindness. I have been challenged in my walk, as I have been treated badly by so called Christians, which are going to take years to heal. Contrast that with my mother who has homosexual neighbours who care, do her shopping, look out for her and will do anything if she asked. Sometimes I am completely left confused, but it brings me back that I want to be like Jesus.

      • great thoughts, david. how quickly we forget that it isn’t our job to judge, but to love.

        last night i spoke with about 20 college students about what it looks like to love our neighbor, using jesus’ words in luke 10 (‘the good samaritan’ story). powerful image, if we take the time to listen.

        that, in conjunction with the entire chapter of luke 15, give us reason to pause before we start designating folks ‘in’ and ‘out.’

    • fantastic question, erika. some of my gay friends believe that God does call them to celibacy, as they interpret the handful of verses that deal with homosexuality in the scriptures to include a loving, monogamous relationship between two consenting adults.

      others believe that God does indeed bless same sex relationships, and interpret those passages through the lens of their cultural context – mainly idolatry and pagan worship rituals, including temple prostitution and men taking young boys as their ‘play things.’

      the gay christian network (GCN) calls these two sides of ‘the great debate’ side A (God blesses same sex marriages) and side B (God calls gay christians to lifelong celibacy). you can read two well written responses to that question at their site, here ::

      i am increasingly convinced regardless of which side we are convinced is more biblically and intellectually honest, we have a responsibility as followers of jesus to *stand with* those who are marginalized and oppressed…which seems to me to include our brothers and sisters attracted to members of the same sex.

      also, it may be helpful to read andrew marin’s ‘love is an orientation’ (i recommend it to anyone who wants to be taken seriously in the conversation of bridging the gap between the gay and evangelical communities. andrew makes a similar point after years of research, study and relationship – for the gay community, orientation *is* identity. we can’t separate it with ‘hate the sinner.’ [tony campolo, by the way, often points out that jesus teaches us to hate our *own* sin and to love other people, rather than concerning ourselves with the specks in the eyes of our friends]

      here’s a link to that helpful book ::

      • Erika

        Thanks, I will definitely look into the references you provided.

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