March 12, 2013

“In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air.  And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”  But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”  And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”  Acts 10:12-15

There is a new church coming to your town.  I wonder if you will attend.

It is a church where:

Children run up and down the aisles;

Your race is the minority;

People talk at inappropriate times during the service;

Some are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction;

An ashtray is outside for the smokers;

The worship service has some hip-hop;

A few believe that deodorant is optional;

The police are aware of a few of the attendees;

The guys have longer hair than the girls;

Some are struggling with pornography addiction;

Some unwed teens are pregnant;

Not all have homes to return to;

A few effeminate men and masculine women attend;

Occasionally, feet are placed on the furniture;

The underwear of several young men can be seen;

Some, struggling with cursing, fail here;

The local tattoo artist references many attendees in his portfolio;

There is no doxology.

Church HDRIs this the type of church that you seek?  I know the reasons why these are not the attributes that appeal to my family and me.  I don’t see these attributes in the vision statements of most churches.  I wonder how much of our religious Church culture creates the same results as the Jewish culture of Peter’s time.

And he (Peter) said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” Acts 10:28

Our Christian doctrines don’t have specific laws about who we can associate with or visit like the Jews did.  However, consider the end results.  Isn’t the typical church on a Sunday morning almost as homogenous as any Synagogue in Jerusalem during Peter’s time?

Mine is.

It is as if the welcome mats at our Sunday gatherings have an unwritten expectation of what we consider clean and acceptable.  The unclean don’t seem to get past it.

Are there folks out in your community who you would prefer not to associate with on Sunday morning? 

Are there some who you consider too rough? 

Are there some who are simply uncouth? 

Are there some who you have determined are unclean and should not be associated with?

Peter was sent to the very people he believed he should not associate with.  God showed him that he should not call any person common or unclean.  I have never heard anyone in the mainstream of Christian community call any group of people unclean.  However, do our actions confess to a heart that has judged another person as unfit to be associated with?

To my shame, I think that my actions do.  I don’t think that I have actively pursued a course of pious dissociation but I look at the reality of my life.  I rarely associate with anyone who does not look like me.  I wonder what a disinterested third-party would infer of my beliefs based on an evaluation of the people with whom I associate.

I think that we all need to be very careful about letting our social preferences creep into our definitions of acceptable.  In Galatians 1:11-14, we are told that Peter stumbled due to this mindset.  He withdrew from the Gentiles.  Those same people whom God had said were clean he withdrew from because of social pressures. We don’t have any written rules or laws about who we can associate.  However, we sure seem to withdraw from those who make us uncomfortable.

Brothers and sisters, let’s evaluate our hearts to make sure that the reason for the uniformity of our associates is not due to some attitude of withdrawal that has the effect of keeping the uncomfortable away.  Remember, those who make us uncomfortable need a Savior just as much as you and I.  I am not sure how to immediately apply this to my life.  Maybe, we are to be like Peter, when the Lord sent the unclean to him.  Peter opened the door and was welcoming.  Maybe, we should prepare our hearts and make sure we display a welcoming attitude for all those who expect to be rejected.

PRAYER: Lord, I don’t know if the reason for the similarity of all my friends is due to an inappropriate attitude or simply due to where you have me.  Either way, examine my heart, Lord.  Don’t allow me to be unwelcoming to those whom you bring into my life.  Lord, I want to be like Peter and go to those who you send to me regardless of social pressures or personal preference.  Father, may your Church be the most welcoming place in the world for those who are truly seeking you.  Amen


  1. […] “CLEAN OR UNCLEAN ASSOCIATIONS” – Mar. 12 […]

  2. This is a real eye opener and makes me realize I need to look deep inside myself and ask the tough questions about my actions. Thank you for giving me something to think about.

  3. I find it an exciting time to follow God…He is actively speaking to our hearts and we are so tried of listening to everyone else that we’re giving ear to what He has to say to our hearts. He’s purging our hearts to be pure before Him and man. It’s kingdom building time!

  4. Interesting, my church hits at least half of those points.

  5. We are so blessed to be a part of a church in a very homogenous community that has at it’s core the goal of diversity. Our family is a transracial family with several children who have a variety of disabilities. One of our daughters does walk around the aisles and dances in front during worship time. I am often told how much people love to watch her worship our God. We are very grateful for a welcoming community where we can be who we are.
    It is often said that Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week. I find it hard to believe that God doesn’t intend for us to be practicing for heaven now.
    Psalm 86:9 – All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.

  6. Thank you for sharing this. I agree. Jesus, make me like you in my relationships!

  7. Great post.

    As a kid, I remember my mom taking me to the homogeneous church you describe. What little I remember is everyone wearing a tie, everyone standing at the right time, and everyone singing when told to sin. I never connected.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, my father-in-law was a bishop in the Episcopal church that focused on inmates and people with addictions. It was a completely different feel, but holy none the less. I think I learned more by seeing the work being done there.

    Today I go to a Baptist church that I’m proud to say isn’t homogeneous at all. I some in ties and some in jeans. Some that are professionals and some that are cowboys. Blacks and whites. Well to-dos and those barely making it.

    I’m proud to be in a church that celebrates everyone’s differences and where the only thing that matters is that you love God.

  8. That is powerful…and can certainly be expanded on….loving and serving those considered unclean is often considered a profession of “less value” by the world but is often the source of great joy.

  9. This might interest you. It’s a church for all those who don’t fit in. And it really works. http://raggamuffins-journey.blogspot.co.uk/p/brief-intro-to-zacs-place.html

  10. Even Jesus struggled with this. First he declared that he would only serve the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But later he healed the daughter of the Syro-phoenecian woman. And he made many references to and several healings of Samaritans. He is our Example. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit into either of the groups any more 😦 At least I know I fit in with Him 🙂

  12. You’re right if course. Many churches are too clean, to structured, too busy to welcome the in characteristic. Fortunately there are those who advertise open door and live it. I don’t think anyone really knows how they will react until they come face to face with the situation.
    I hope I would be one who walks my talk.

    I have a prayer request today that you’ll recognize as God at work, even though my situation may not change here.

    I applied for a job at RBC Ministries. One of the responsibilities would be book editor. I’m not praying for God to give me that job. I am praying that if that is the place for me, then he will swing the door wide open so all affected parties will walk through it together. Meaning there is no doubt in my part and even more importantly no doubt in the minds of the hiring managers and teammates. That’s my prayer. I want only for my next move to be productive and centered in the will of my real boss, Jesus Christ.
    Thank you so much!!

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