You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. Acts 10:28
I grew up in a Christian home with wonderful parents who lived good lives. I was never taught this, but as a teen, I just knew that anyone who struggled with addiction probably wasn’t a Christian. Because I’d never done anything really horrible, I looked down on those whom I considered to be horrible. At that time, I couldn’t have imagined one day working with addicts. Now, 30 years later, that’s exactly where God has brought me. Since I’ve realized I was one of those I was once intolerant of, they’re now my life mission.
Even now though, I find that I still have intolerant or bigoted views of other people groups who don’t look, believe, or act like me. Some of this may be based on race, but more often, it seems to be based on religion. Because my faith is so important to me, and because others have a very different faith, I tend to view them as beneath me.
Peter faced this tendency in himself in today’s passage. In the story, God sent Peter a vision, commanding him to take the gospel of Christ to the gentiles. Up to this point in history, the Jewish people kept their faith to themselves, looking at everyone else as outsiders and treating them as such. Peter’s statement in today’s passage was a declaration that he was to no longer look down on others, but to love them as Christ loved them.
It’s not wrong to disagree with another’s belief. It’s not wrong to cling to our own. Where we often go wrong as Christians, is to make the leap that because we disagree with others, that we should be condescending, treating them poorly. We may not act in an overtly malicious manner towards the Muslims in our community, but neither would we ever invite them into our homes.
According to today’s passage though, that’s exactly what we should be doing. Peter went to those who weren’t like him precisely because of his faith. If we truly love and follow God, we too should love those whom he’s put in our lives – even when they don’t look, believe, or speak like us. You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39).