Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Reason and Revelation: Range (Part 4)

The Surprise of God

This is perhaps the greatest example from the scriptures of a man who's range was blown to pieces by God.
"Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, 'Get up, Peter, kill and eat!' But Peter said, 'By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.' Again a voice came to him a second time, 'What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.' This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky." (Acts 10:9-16)
What God was asking Peter to do was unthinkable to him. How could he disobey the law of Moses? How could he transgress the traditions of his elders? How could God be commanding him to do what he had grown up to believe was sinful? I tried to think of what an equivalent request might be for me. It would be as if God came to me in a dream and told me to start preaching the Book of Mormon. Personally, I don't believe that the Book of Mormon is divine but rather simply a fable or novel. How could I take up preaching a false gospel? This is akin to what God was asking Peter to do. The vision left Peter perplexed.
"Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon's house, appeared at the gate; and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there. While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Behold, three men are looking for you. But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.'" (Acts 10:17-20)
Instead of summarily dismissing the vision, Peter pondered what it might mean. A few days later, when he arrived at Cornelius' house, He understood what God was trying to tell him.
"As he talked with him, he entered and found many people assembled. And he said to them, 'You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for... I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.'" (Acts 10:27-29, 34-35)
All of a sudden, Peter understood. God was calling all men to repentance and reconciliation with God, not just the Jews. Where before, Peter would have never even consider going to a gentile with the gospel, now he is the first to bring them the good news. That day, Peter's range got expanded to include even the gentiles.

It is always good to have well thought out and reasoned beliefs and opinions, but we must always leave room for the "surprise" of God. We must always leave room in our range for what we don't understand; for what is beyond our present understanding. We must be willing to be taught and shown new things by God. We must be open to God "blowing" our minds and expanding our range. After all, the goal is not to form tightly crystallized ideas, but rather knowing God, and in that process, I am sure that we are going to find lots of surprises along the way.

David Robison

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