I have read the book of Acts more than once, and yet today something was brought to my attention that I had never focused on before. In chapter 10 Peter is shown a vision where a sheet comes down from heaven with all kinds of animals on it and God says to Peter "Get up. Kill and eat." Peter refuses saying that he has never eaten unclean things before and he won't now. Yet God tells him that nothing He made is unclean. I had always associated that with Peter being told that he could now eat whatever he wanted.
However, as the chapter goes on, Peter brings new meaning to that. I'm not sure how I skipped over it in the past...maybe I just wasn't ready to see it. Peter says that because God showed him this that he now understands that no PERSON is unclean. Therefore, we can associate with any one of God's children. I'm not sure how he took the step from food to people, but I like it!
Being in the military has many advantages, but it has many challenges as well. Today this chapter has brought two things to my mind. One is fairly easy to tackle...the other, not so much. But I'm going to try!
First, NO ONE is too dirty for God. That means nothing you have done in your past prevents you from being baptized by the Holy Spirit. Nothing! When we contemplate our lives and wonder if we are worthy of God, we must be able to acknowledge that we are not. No one is! But not a single one of us has done something so terrible that God cannot overcome it. The power of the blood of Christ cannot be trumped. And since we are made by God, we must acknowledge that He made us clean.
It also means that we must remember this not only for ourselves but for others as well. We must remember that God wishes for us to reach all people, not just the ones we think are good. Not just the ones who follow the rules or do good or are family, but ALL people. We must be careful to not judge based on appearance or past performance, but to remind ourselves that these people we are having trouble accepting are children of God as well. No matter how dirty, annoying, confusing, irritating, or bothersome a people they might be! Even those who have committed evil, unspeakable acts are still children of God, and we are called to love! Remember the life of Paul!
The second thing God has brought to my attention might make people uncomfortable...heck, it's making me uncomfortable to even feel the need to speak of it. However, I feel God has laid it on my heart...so here goes:
One of the greatest challenges in the military is rank and I don't mean making rank. I mean the lines that divide us because of rank. (Now, let me put in a qualifier here: If you are active duty military, then please continue to follow the rules and regs that apply. This is for those of us who are spouses. This is NOT something for you to encourage your active duty husband to follow. I was active duty for 5 years, preceded by 19 years as a dependent and now 9 more years as a dependent and wife of a 1st Sgt...I know those regs exist for a reason.) We are divided by the lines between officer/enlisted, junior enlisted/senior enlisted, command officer/noncommand officer, positions of authority/everyone else. These lines can extend to the family members as well. I grew up thinking that we were not supposed to associate with the wives of officers. I grew up thinking that since my dad could not be "friends" with junior enlisted, that mean that my mom shouldn't be "friends" with their wives. We could be friendly, but certainly nothing that could ever be seen as "buddy-buddy" for fear that someone would think someone was playing favorites.
However, here in PWOC we have women who are wives to people of all ranks and positions. Many of us may not even know what rank a person's husband has, and I believe that is as it should be! We are women, people, God's children and we have so much to give one another. But PWOC is kind of a sheltered world...it's special because we meet in the chapel and we can just be women. And then we go home. If you do not already have women that are friends, mentors, or mentees from a variety of walks in life, I encourage you to start working on that. Peter tells us that no one is impure or unclean...in other words, we need to get rid of the taboo of labels.
I know how hard this will be hard for many. I know that it may make husbands squirm a little to realize that you are friends with someone in their chain of command, or someone who is higher up than they are, or someone subordinate to them. I really do understand that because my husband often has to choose to not attend certain events because of those lines the military draws...but never once has he told me to not be friends with someone because of rank. He knows that I will either have the opportunity to encourage someone, or be encouraged by them.
God knows our struggles in this military life, and I believe that this passage in Acts is a help to us in breaking those chains that the military could be setting on us. Just think of the encouragement you could give to a younger wife...regardless of her husband's rank! Think of what you could learn from a more experienced military wife...no matter if her husband is base commander or a chief! The military is our family and we should not be afraid to associate with family members.