Reason is but one way of knowing.
In the long straight roads of the central valley of California, I see pink and white blossoms erupting against the black gnarled stumps of fruit trees. Very soon these old craggy branches of old peach trees and gnarled grapevines will hide their age as they sprout iridescent green foliage. I know spring is coming. But I know it's coming not simply because it's reasonable -- there are four seasons and winter is mostly past so spring is on the way. Rather, I see the visual cues everyday and I know spring has sprung.
In a story from the primitive church, Peter relearns what it means to be part of God's people. While he was praying, Peter receives a vision on the rooftop of a friend's house. In this vision a sheet comes down from heaven with animals of all kind sprawled on it. Peter hears a voice tell him to take, kill and e at. But Peter refuses because these animals are "unclean." The sheet appears three times and finally a voice from heaven exclaims, "What I have made clean, do not call unclean."
Peter heard the voice but didn't comprehend the truth. Personally, I find that incredible, or at least very curious. Peter, like few others, was close to Jesus. He watched firsthand as Jesus loved the unloveable. He heard Jesus preach the royal law of love. But Peter also knew his religious tradition well. He knew they were special, they were called by God.
Personally, I think this is why we find Peter in a flurry of post resurrection activity; he preaches, does miracles and baptizes diverse groups of people in diverse places. And yet, despite this passionate missionary impulse, Peter didn't know that in God's heart all people are related to God's self.
It seems that Peter was simply being too reasonable.
For many years, I assumed that this story confirmed a popular myth that our behavior follows our patterns of thinking. This line of reasonings suggest that human first think and then act. All Peter really needed was new information.
But actually, Peter's story confirms the opposite. That is to say, knowing a truth doesn't rely simply and exclusively on our cognitive abilities. The truth -- the reality of God's amazing love -- doesn't by necessity proceed from Peter's brain to Peter's reality; from his thoughts to his experience. After all, so the story goes, Peter was puzzled by the vision. He didn't understand what the vision meant.
Enter, Cornelius. Peter finds himself in the presence of people for whom it was forbidden him to associate. It is only when Cornelius becomes part of the story that Peter's vision has any meaning. It was only when Peter allowed the visual cues of the season to impact his perception that he experienced the truth and the depth of God's love. Only when he is standing in the presence of "unclean" persons does he understand whom God is for. "Ah ha!" says Peter, "Now I know God is for everyone!"
Truth can be, and very often is reasonable. But very often, the truth is simply seasonable and, more to the point I think, right under our noses. In the story, Peter's vision is no more important to this story than is his newfound willingness to recognize the importance of others as people of God.
So let me encourage you. See the signs. Watch for the cues of the season because the truth isn't always reasonable. And, like the blossoms in springtime, sometimes the truth is right under our nose.
This work by www.newgenfaith.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
CONNECT with me: http://www.linkedin.com/in/glenquiring/