Speaking Of Life 4025 | No One Special, Just Chosen
“Circle, circle, dot, dot, now I got my cootie shot. Circle, circle, square square, now I got them everywhere.” Is a common playground rhyme chanted to tease or exclude another kid.
As humans, it is easy for us to focus on what makes us different, or ostracize a person or group to create an in-crowd. We see a situation like this occur in the life of the early church, about how to welcome Gentiles—non-Jewish people—into the community of faith. This conversation seems especially foreign to us—a mostly Gentile audience, centuries removed. We must keep in mind that for generations keeping the law was the marker of the faithfulness of God’s chosen people of Israel. A big part of that law included dietary restrictions.
So Peter’s strange dream in Acts 11 tells us that God is doing something new:
“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me,
‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’
Acts 11:5-7 (ESV)
According to Jewish law and custom, the animals in Peter’s dream were considered unclean. Anything “unclean” was considered contagious and invoked experiences of separation from God and others. It was one thing that separated Jews from Gentiles. The invitation to Peter to rise, kill, and eat was an invitation to break down that separation and participate in a new way of being God’s people.
This was a revolutionary statement that wholeness and redemption are found in Jesus alone, not by external laws and customs. Inclusion of Gentile Christians then, was not conditional upon adopting the practices of Jewish law and custom but upon Christ. God’s chosen people were no longer marked by custom but by faith.
Sadly, we the Church, still lean toward separation as we struggle with questions of chosenness and inclusion. We sometimes rely upon a behavior or external indicator to prove our worth as a follower of Jesus. Or we use our understanding of normative Christian customs as criteria to dismiss or exclude someone else. This negates the inclusive message God gave to Peter. All are included and invited to participate in what God is doing – bringing many sons and daughters to glory.
This Easter season as we celebrate the newness of life found in our resurrected King, I invite you to participate in a new way of being God’s people. A new way that relies on Jesus alone as proof of our chosenness. A new way of radical inclusion in Christ. In Jesus, we are reconciled to God and one another, not by custom, but by his broken body raised to glorious life again.
I’m Cara Garrity, Speaking of Life.