Although today’s reading is relatively long, it’s still only a part of a
much bigger narrative. More of this story is included in the readings for
Sunday, and it offers a challenging message. It’s easy to forget how
shocking Peter’s actions would have been for his peers in the Church of
Acts. They had been raised as Jews and taught that it was wrong to
associate with Gentiles. They didn’t share meals with Gentiles, and they
didn’t believe that Gentiles could receive God’s Spirit. But then Peter is
given a vision – three times! – in which he is invited to eat all sorts of
unclean foods. When he objects, he hears God telling him not to call
unclean what God considers clean. Then, when he receives the invitation
to go to the house of the Gentile Cornelius, he recognizes that God has
prepared him for this moment, and he agrees. Through this experience,
his mind is opened to realize that God loves, welcomes, and accepts
even the people that Peter felt were unacceptable to God.
We continue this week by reading about Jesus’ teaching about bearing
fruit, calling followers of Christ to love one another. Peter’s story reveals
that “one another” does not mean only those we like and who are the
same as us. When Jesus says, “love one another,” he means everyone,
including those we may be tempted to reject.
The practice of hospitality, or welcoming others, is highly valued in the
Bible. When we gather for worship, we enjoy God’s hospitality around
God’s Table, but we can welcome others anywhere and anytime. This
may mean sharing a meal or a cup of coffee, or just sharing a smile.
Today, I open my heart to welcome even those I am tempted to reject.