Spiritual Pollution, The End: "But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean"

I hope you have enjoyed this series on Spiritual Pollution. I've enjoyed writing it. If anyone would like a copy of the paper this series was based on (soon to appear in the Journal of Psychology and Theology) feel free to e-mail me at beckr@acu.edu.

Like yesterday, I want to end this series on spiritual pollution on a positive note. So, I'd like to conclude with what I consider to be the pivotal moment in the history of the Christian church: The first foray of the good news into the larger world. In the book of Acts, after early growth, we soon find that the church is about to fail in fulfilling the Great Commission to take the good news into all the world. The church is still a Jewish sect, still centered in Jerusalem and focused on temple worship. No attempt is being made to reach the Gentile world. Why? Sociomoral contamination. The Jewish Christians still would not associate with Gentiles for fear of becoming unclean. How can you love people when contact with them defiles you?

So, in Acts 10, God acts decisively to dismantle the sociomoral disgust psychology of the church. God starts with Peter. I see in Acts 10 the perfect ending to this series, the perfect picture of what the church is called to be, of how we are to respond to all the challenges I've spoken of regarding sociomoral disgust. I hope, if you've read this entire series, you'll forever read Acts 10 with a newfound wonder and discernment.

Acts 10: 9-28

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air.

Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."

"Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."

The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon's house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.

While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them."

Peter went down and said to the men, "I'm the one you're looking for. Why have you come?"

The men replied, "We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say." Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.

The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only a man myself."

Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean."

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2 thoughts on “Spiritual Pollution, The End: "But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean"”

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  2. "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."

    If purity weren't a valid category or assessment, why the reference to God making clean? I don't think we're called to abandon something so deeply ingrained in our mind and so often enjoined in our texts; I think we're called to trust God's ability to purify and restore.

    We are to reach across divides. The Jew/Gentile divide was one where, historically, the Gentiles had contaminated the Jews with idolatry time and again; it was not an unreasoning separation that kept them apart. But what do you think of the possibilityy that, in Christ the separation is broached, not because the pure/impure separation was meaningless or institutionally wrong, but because contact with Christ can reverse the defilement. Peter in his letters uses some purity/cleanness language (along with all other kinds of salvation metaphors) and ascribes all that to Christ.

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