Summary: A sermon based on the recollection of the dream by Simon Peter in Acts 11 and Jesus’ commandment in John chapter 13
I give you a new commandment love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you. (John 13:34 New Jerusalem Bible)
Today’s scriptural readings take us on a journey, which for the disciples, was the true meaning of their mission in life. You see, the dream of Simon Peter is a continuation of the commandment that Jesus gives the disciples in John chapter 13.
In fact, one might say it is a kind of a reminder by Jesus as to what Simon Peter’s role in life is, and how God is not just the God of the Hebrews, but the God of all people.
Jesus tells the disciples to love one another. To translate this into a modern sense, we are to treat each other with respect and consider each other as equals, for we are all of sacred worth in the eyes of God.
God gives Simon Peter this same message later on in the dream, no longer should the message of God’s grace and mercy be kept for just the Jewish people. Moreover, through the imagery of all the animals clean and unclean God reveals that all people of all nations are to receive God’s love and mercy.
In Acts 11, Simon Peter is actually retelling the events of his dream, because the apostles and other Jewish believers felt that Simon Peter was being scandalous in preaching to the Gentiles. He actually has to justify to them about the spreading of the Gospel.
Do we as Christians do this to other Christians? Have you ever heard someone, maybe even yourself say. “Why is so and so talking to that person?” “They are not our kind of people, I’m not going to talk to them”
Why did the original eleven, plus Bartholomew, find it so hard to reach outside the Jewish community? For one, the Gentile community was strangers to them. For most of their lives, they had been taught not to associate with the Gentiles. They were still of the mind set that Jesus was their Messiah, not the whole world’s. Lastly, they probably feared how the rest of the Jewish community would feel about the matter.
This is a normal human reaction, “What will others think?” The fact is, Jesus is not concerned about that. His commandment for us is to “Love one another”. More over in order to love one another fully we need to share the news that God loves us and will free us from the bondage of our sins.
You see, if the ultimate form of love was the sacrifice that Jesus made for us by taking all the sins of the world on to His shoulders, then the ultimate act of love on our part, comes in bringing the love of God to others and making sure they know about the gift of mercy and grace He has for them.
In other words every time a person makes the decision not share the Gospel with another person that person is committing a very selfish act not only toward the intended person, but to the Lord Our God Himself.
This was the point that God had made to Simon Peter. All people are of sacred worth. All people need God and are to be given the chance to accept the gift of Salvation.
On the flipside, this does not mean we have been given a blank check. Once we have accepted Christ into our lives, and have received the forgiveness for our past transgression, we are still accountable. The belief that some how what had been previously an unacceptable practice is now acceptable is false.
Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 5:17-19
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”(Matthew 5:17-19 NIV)
It is unfortunate that people try to make the claim that Peter’s vision applied to human behavior and practices as well as the ethnic heritage of the people. Let me reiterate all people are of sacred worth and God’s creation. However, our behaviors are our own and are not to be considered, “sacred”.
For us as United Methodists, we have made it our mission as church to open our doors to all comers. For John Wesley that was the poor of England, especially those that worked in the factories and coal mines.