Peter’s encounter with a sheet full of sin is one of the hardest passages in all of scripture to deal with. Peter is called by God directly in a vision to do something, something major, that God had forbidden again and again in His Word. The fact that the vision comes in the form of a sheet, or literally a sail, makes this particular call personal for Peter, but nonetheless, what do we do with this story?
Many have used it as an excuse to ignore any uncomfortable Old Testament (or even New Testament) laws they might want to ignore. “If God called Peter to ignore an Old Testament law, then they must not matter that much.” Unfortunately, we’ve used the other side of the argument to super-emphasize the Old Testament Law as well. “If God had to make such a drastic intervention just to circumvent this particular prohibition, He would have done the same for any others He wanted circumvented, but He didn’t.”
In truth, the relationship between the OT Law and following Christ isn’t as easy as either of these lines of thought. We cannot simply ignore Exodus or Leviticus because Peter was told to have some bacon. And we cannot simply ignore our freedom in Christ because Peter wasn’t invited to work on the Sabbath. This takes wisdom, prayer, and the Holy Spirit. And a whole lot more space than we have here.
Instead, when we read this passage, we need to see Peter’s calling to share the gospel with anyone and everyone, even those he would not normally interact with. But we also need to see Cornelius’ similar sentiment. When God calls us to something, He also is at work preparing the hearer. When you made the decision to follow Christ, what things had transpired in your life to prepare you for it? Mentors? Family? Situations? Youth ministry?