Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance. I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.” (Acts 11:4-10)
I felt gipped when I first read this Scripture. We’ve heard this story already both from Peter’s and Cornelius’s point of view. So why is Luke telling us again? We already know that God despises prejudice and that He doesn’t want us to think that any person of any race is less important than we are. So it is more likely that Luke wants us to dig deeper. Perhaps we missed one of the lesser themes of this story.
In Peter’s vision, God sends a zoo of diverse animals, in a prayer shawl, to Peter that aren’t fighting or eating each other. The animals have been in heaven with God. So, God tells us when diverse people live in heaven, we’ll love each other and get along like these animals do. Having God’s love in common will settle our differences, and we’ll all be clean because Jesus died to remove and forgive our wrongdoings.
A third thing God conveys is that it’s okay for Gentiles not to follow dietary law. It appears that God also says that Jews can either follow or not follow dietary law. God doesn’t reprimand Peter for his refusal to eat reptiles and pigs, but it is also okay to go to Gator Joe’s and eat gator tail and barbequed pork. We shouldn’t judge anyone by what they eat—not even overweight people loading their plates with desserts at the all-you-can-eat buffet.
God may be telling us that all types of animals are in heaven and that we’ll be able to bury our faces in a lion’s mane, rub noses with a tiger, or that an elephant will use its trunk to lift us up to its back so we can take a ride. What fun! And perhaps the pets we’ve loved so much will be waiting in the mansions God has prepared for us.
Dearest Father, I praise You for the lessons you’ve taught me, and I thank you for the animals I’ll meet in heaven. Convict me when I make a comment about what people eat or when I say something that conveys prejudice. Help me not wait until heaven to make friends with people of different cultures because we all have You in common. I pray in Jesus’ precious name, amen.