When Is a Sin Not Really a Sin?
Shortly after Cornelius received one vision, the apostle Peter received another, an odd dream in which God told Peter to do something his mother had told him was a sin. It was confusing and disorienting for Peter, but Peter learned something all Christians need to learn: Sometimes we label the wrong things "sin". Insert your favorite argument here. I’ve probably heard them all. Dancing. R-rated movies. Profanity. Drinking beer.
I’ve already told you that when I was a kid we lived in West Monroe, Louisiana. What I haven’t told you is that the summer camp I attended was called Camp Chi-Yo-Ca – which sounds like an Indian name but is really shorthand for Christian Youth Camp. During camp we had separate pool times for the boys and the girls because some folks from our church thought boys and girls swimming together was a sin. It was called “mixed bathing” and was spoken of in the same hushed tones that might be reserved for the conversation where you gossip about the neighbor girl down the street who got herself into trouble and had to go stay with an aunt in another part of the country for the next few months.
It was considered a serious violation of the rules to have boys and girls swimming together, but every Sunday morning the deacons would gather outside the front door of the church to smoke. Smoking cigarettes wasn’t a sin, you see. It was actually good for the economy. They didn’t smoke because they were addicted to nicotine; they smoked because they were patriots.
Get this straight: In Louisiana, smoking = good; mixed bathing = bad.
Now, imagine my disorientation when, at the tender age of 10, my family moved to southern California, and I discovered that I had my categories precisely reversed.
In California, beach devotionals in swimsuits = good; smoking = you might be the antichrist.
This is similar to what Peter experiences in Acts 10. Peter has to reconsider his categories. What is sin? What is out of bounds? How far is too far?