Tuesday, August 16, 2011

knocking down walls

God has this amazing ability to know us. He truly knows us because He created each of us, formed us, and gave us our own subtleties that make us us. He knows just what walls need to be knocked down to truly open our eyes.

I've just gone through Acts 10 and 11 and while it wasn't the main point of this Holy Spirit -focused lesson, something stood out to me. Here's the passage:
Acts 10:9 Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 But he became hungry and was desiring to eat ; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; 11 and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, 12 and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13 A voice came to him, "Get up, Peter, kill and eat !" 14 But Peter said, "By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean." 15 Again a voice came to him a second time, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." 16 This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.
Random, I know. But it's the past and future to this that makes this subtle "little" vision such a big thing.
The past: Peter was Jewish (an Israelite), and as found in Deuteronomy 14, there were only certain animals which they could eat. To them, to eat something that was unclean was an abomination to the Lord. This was just one distinction that kept them set apart from the Gentiles (or non-Israelite peoples).
The future: God was about to have Peter witness to a Gentile named Cornelius and his friends, whom Jews should have no business being around.

Why I find this so neat: God took mercy on Peter. He didn't allow Peter to receive the request to visit Cornelius, without taking away a stereotype. Without first putting his mind at ease.

If you think about it, there are so many stereotypes out there, some around nationality, others around gender, others based on looks, others centering around monetary status, goodness I could go on! God took away the "fear" of the stereotype of a Gentile's uncleanliness from Peter, right before he was asked to approach that type of person.
A real scenario in my life: I was hesitant to approach an individual who was sitting all alone. That person didn't look like me or dress like me. Without even meaning to, I wrongly summarized that we would have nothing in common and there was no point at going over to strike up a conversation. However, when that gal began to cry, the stereotypes weren't so true anymore. She was human. She was in some sort of pain. I could identify that she had the same basic needs as I. In that moment, that need was comfort. I could try and give that.

I wonder if Peter was stuck on the whole uncleanliness thing and that's why God brought that vision to him. I wonder if God knew that should be the wall He should tear down for Peter, to allow him to overcome a stereotype and so something uncomfortable (& unlawful), and to give him the boldness to go and see Cornelius.

Have you ever had a time when you realized just how wrong a stereotype you had was? Did this realization come after the moment had passed or were you able to change your initial reaction/action?

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