Clean and unclean
The voice spoke a second time, “Never consider unclean what God has made pure.” (Acts 10:15, CEB)
He said to them, “You all realize that it is forbidden for a Jew to associate or visit with outsiders. However, God has shown me that I should never call a person impure or unclean.” (Acts 10:28, CEB)
Acts 10 is one of the chapters of the Bible that sticks with me. I find myself reading it again and again. Together with Mark 7, it gets at the New Testament reading (revisions?) of the Torah regarding the clean and unclean.
Peter is shown by God that no food is unclean. He immediately expands this insight to declare that no person is unclean. The people of God are not tainted by mere contact with outsiders. God is the God of all. Status is not a reason to disassociate from others.
At the same time, though, the NT church did still prohibit forms of moral pollution. Eating the blood of an animal (a prohibition we have long since dropped) and various forms of sexual immorality are singled out by the Acts 15 council. Jesus in Mark 7 teaches that we can still be defiled by what comes out of our heart, including “sexual sins, thefts, murders, adultery, greed, evil actions, deceit, unrestrained immorality, envy, insults, arrogance, and foolishness.”
These acts coming out of the heart make us unclean and require forgiveness, not just from the person we’ve wronged in each act. But the good news is that such forgiveness is at hand for those who earnestly seek it.
These are my non-systematic and unorganized thoughts. I think they have some impact on the hot-button conversations of our day, but I’m really more interested in understanding them as general teachings of the church.
A couple of tentative conclusions I draw:
- The default position of the church is toward hospitality to every creature of God
- It is our actions not our status that make us unclean in the sight of God
- Even our actions cannot permanently stain us
- It is the intentions of the heart that matter most in our actions
I’m not sure I could defend these if pressed, but they are the best I can do at the moment.
How do you read Acts 10 and Mark 7?