One thing that changed with the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost is the door was opened to the Gentiles on a large scale for the first time. Prior to this time God dealt almost exclusively with the nation of Israel. When the time came for the Gentiles, or non-Jews, to be brought in it took a little bit of convincing for most of the Jewish people to be accepting of it.
The Apostle Peter had a vision one day, while sitting on a rooftop, of a sheet filled with all manner of, what the Law of Moses defined as, unclean animals. Peter heard a voice telling him to kill and eat but he responded as any law abiding Jew would and said, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.” The voice responded saying, “What God has cleansed, that call not common.” This had to happen three times before Peter finally got the message. The message to Peter wasn’t really about food but rather about God telling him Gentiles are not to be thought of as unclean anymore. The door of salvation in Christ had been opened to everyone that was willing to receive him.
As we discussed this story in the small group Bible study at the jail we talked about the racial element and how the division between different races is torn down in Christ. One of the guys, that just so happens to be a black man said, “This is like a KKK member getting saved and changing his mind about another race.” Later he said it was what the verse said about the sheet that made him think about the KKK. He said, “If that which was in the sheet Peter saw had been made clean so can that which is in another kind of sheet.” Sometimes it’s difficult to have a discussion about racial division but this time it was going great, it was helpful and everyone was on the same page.
This conversation reminded me of two men that are friends of mine and how they used to be on the opposite sides of the law. One of them grew up in the streets and served 14 years in prison and the other was a city police officer who later became police chief and is now a detective. Years ago they used to have frequent run-ins simply because of the nature of their dispositions. At the time the police officer wasn’t a believer therefore neither of the two were showing much grace. Years later the one man was set free from prison and began to serve God with everything within him. Meanwhile the police officer became a believer and his life had also been changed.
It just so happened that both of these men attended the same church and the ex-con was going to become an ordained minister. Thankfully I had the privilege of being there to witness the ordination ceremony in the church where the cop served as a deacon. After several ministers from the surrounding counties had asked their questions and the ceremony was coming to a close there was one thing left to do. The police officer approached the ex-con stooped down and washed his feet. This to me was the epitome of what Christ is all about. I couldn’t think of a more fitting example of how Christ changes people’s hearts and attitudes. Two men from very different sides of the law had both received Christ and ultimately found themselves serving in the same church side by side years later.
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27-28)
Written by Louie