A Seismic Shift
When Jesus came, it shook the community of Israel to its core. There were divided opinions about exactly who and what this person was: Son of God? Deceiver? Prophet? Charlatan?
But beyond this immediate controversy, Jesus brought a new understanding of how we are clean — how we are right with God. Rather than by obedience to all the myriad aspects of the law as they understood it, we are now right with God through Jesus. Sin, or separation from God, comes not from things outside us that pollute us, but from within. It took a dramatic life event for Peter to begin to grasp this shift and we see it in Sunday’s lesson from the Acts of the Apostles. (Click here to read it. NOTE: This is actually just Peter’s report of what happened in chapter 10. Click here to read the full original events.)
The general perception was that the way to be right with God was to obey the rules. Keep the Sabbath. Make the sacrifices. Tithe. Etc. Whether one enjoyed these things or simply did them as a matter of obligation was of little consequence. In this way, righteousness became primarily a function of controlling things outside of me.
But Jesus taught what it is what comes from within that matters. For this reason, eating the wrong foods does not make us unrighteous (unclean). Heritage or ethnicity does not make us unrighteous. Rather, it is what flows from within. That’s actually a lot harder. It is much easier to avoid pork than to discipline the wanderings of my inner life.
But that is the call that Jesus left us with. Peter had a hard time getting it, hence a life-changing vision. And Luke (the presumed author of Luke and Acts) knew it would continue to be difficult for us so he included a lengthy and detailed account of what happened with Peter so that we might share in what he learned.
So how do we pursue this shift in our own lives? Sunday, 10 a.m., In-Person and Livestream!
This column appeared in the May 15, 2022 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.