Obedience to God almost always means accepting change. Granted, it may sometimes require adherence to the status quo; but, more often, it means breaking rank. In Peter’s case, God’s drop-down smorgasbord of “common or unclean” animals (vv.11-12) was not really meant to change the way Peter ate but the way he thought. As we know from the preceding verses, Cornelius, a Gentile, was, at that very minute, on his way to see Peter. So God was working on both ends. Not only did Cornelius need a change of heart; so did Peter.
I see in this chapter several steps we may need to go through as believers in order to come to a change in thinking about a previously held conviction, idea, or (as in Peter's case) prejudice. First, there is a sense that something is not right—a restlessness, if you will. For Peter, it was hunger (v.10), and that is often the way. We become hungry for more than the narrow experience our nominal Christian life provides us, and we wonder, “Are there greener pastures of fellowship with God and clearer paths of righteousness?”
Then into this restlessness, God, in His mercy, seems to open to us opportunities down trails we would not have thought to venture onto otherwise (v.11). It is nothing short of a revelation. And here is where our previously undisturbed self-righteousness comes face to face with something we had always considered to be “common and unclean." And, alas, we, like Peter, protest, “Not so, Lord!” Rejection. We are like the bride in Song of Solomon, who hesitates to open the door for her Beloved, because, as she says, “I have washed my feet: how shall I defile them” (5:3). To Peter’s squeamishness God answers, “Hey, if I say someone, or something, is clean, it’s clean!" (v.15)
Peter’s initial rejection (and God’s vehement counter argument) is followed by one more stage, before he finally submits to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in this matter (v.34-25). It is indecision: “Now while Peter doubted in himself…” (v.17). For Peter, this would be one giant step of faith, nearly as hard as the one that took him out of the boat and onto the water (Matt.14:29). In the end, he was able to see beyond the threat of change, and he was better for it. And so was Cornelius, I might add.
Now, let's bring this truth home. If you and I are able to see some of the changes we are presented with for what they truly are—nudges from God, we will realize the will of God in a way we never could have otherwise. But for that to happen, we’re going to have to be willing to eat what God puts on our plates…no matter how hard it may be to swallow!
"Not so, Lord." The first two words cancel out the last one; you can't have it both ways.