Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone
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.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven (Acts 10:13-16, ESV).
In the Fall of 1977, I climbed aboard a tour bus in Topeka with other high school students from eastern Kansas to visit historical churches and sites in New York, Washington, D.C., and in other surrounding areas of the northeast. Talk about a Kansas farm kid stepping out of his comfort zone. We went to the United Nations, toured the National Mall, and visited historic churches in Baltimore, New York City, Washington, D.C., and in Philadelphia among other places.
In Acts 10, we are told that Peter heard a voice telling him to “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” This occurred three separate times. The vision was of a sheet full of unclean and common animals, reptiles, and birds. Peter might have thought that God was evaluating him similar to the test that Abraham faced when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac on Mt. Moriah (Gen 22:2). God relented, however, and a ram was found in the thicket (Gen 22:13) to offer as the sacrifice. But the Spirit in this occasion told Peter that he was to go with the three men who were now coming to find him (Acts 10:19-20).
These three men, chosen for this mission by Cornelius, had left the day before and had travelled the 33-mile (54 km) journey from Caesarea to Joppa through the night. A soldier and two of Cornelius slaves made their way to Peter. These men obviously were loyal to Cornelius and they were willing to make such an important trip for their master. It must have been uncomfortable for them, not knowing if Peter would choose to come along.
But God had prepared the way. Peter invited them (showing tremendous hospitality), into the home of Simon the tanner, a person who tanned hides of animals. Can you imagine what he would have done seeing the vision of Peter with “animals, reptiles, and birds of the air?” It would mean an economic windfall for this entrepreneur. Even Peter’s stay in this home was beyond the Old Testament code of lodging in clean households. Simon handled dead animals … thus, he was unclean. Certainly, the Roman soldier and two slaves of Cornelius would fit that distinction as well. He had prepared Peter’s heart to receive these strange travelers.
Today, slavery is much more discrete. Often, hidden from the landscape, yet just as profound and damaging. Often, we look beyond the injustices of bondage that are considered acceptable in our society. For example, what do we say about a high school athlete using steroids to increase muscle density and performance for the chance to secure a college football scholarship? Or what about a professional sports team requiring diet drugs so that cheerleaders can “make weight” requirements and retain their figures? Or what about escort services as a cover for human trafficking and prostitution rings around the country?
Interestingly enough, Peter went with these men back to Cornelius’ home in Caesarea. He reminded Cornelius and his guests that it was against Jewish law for him to be associated with them (Acts 10:28). Then, he preached about the Lord Jesus Christ being the son of God. Everyone in attendance, however, came into the family of God, as evidenced by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:45). God helped Peter (through a vision) to see that he could be used to reach people outside of his comfort zone.
I wonder, am I limiting God in my witness? Yesterday, I stopped by the home of a man I have known as “the son of deceased church leaders.” He was building a ramp for his partner who is elderly now and nearing the end of his years. I was able to visit, to share resources in the community and to invite him to worship at our local church. Yes, even this country preacher gets stretched from time to time. Does God want you to share your faith with someone that is outside of your comfort zone?
Other than going to 4-H Camp, the UN/DC study tour was my first experience away from family. This trip out east helped me see the city in a new light, and it was a study tour only offered to high school juniors and seniors. We took notes, collected information, and we were expected to turn in a report for credit after returning home. By the way, I cried and called home every night from 4-H camp. I never went back.
Dear Lord, may I have compassion for my neighbors no matter their race or religion. Help me to make an impact for your kingdom here on earth. Don’t let my fears keep me from caring and considering the needs of everyone that you place in my path in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rev. James Conley
Ministry and Mission Facilitator, Western Slope
Pastor, FBC of Delta, Colo.
American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains