Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’ Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, ‘I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But I replied, “By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” But a second time the voice answered from heaven, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, “Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.” And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?’ When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.’
As a queer person of faith, this is one of my favorite passages in Scripture. The gentiles had always been told that there was no place for them in God’s story, but God intervened on their behalf with the powerful words, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”
I think about these words every time I pass a “God hates f**s” sign, or see a Christian I used to trust post on Facebook about how “women are turning into men and it’s a perversion of God’s design.”
As a queer Christian, I have been told time and time again that God’s family has no place for me unless I change. I heard it in sermons from megachurch pulpits, in cancelled plans and ignored texts after I came out, even in a random Facebook message from a pastor telling me I had a demon.
A few months before I came out, I was sitting in my car, listening to a praise song about how Jesus makes the darkness tremble. Up until that point, I had imagined the darkness was me. I was a threat to my conservative religious community, and Jesus came to defeat threats, right?
But suddenly I heard everything differently. The darkness was not my sexual orientation, it was the homophobia that kept me scared of God and waiting for judgement. Although I didn’t hear a voice, or see a vision of farm animals, that was my turning point. I knew that God had called me clean.
God’s overwhelming love extends to me, queer and trans, exactly as I am. Exactly as God made me to be. If I pretend that I am outside of God’s family, it is a dishonor to the God who has called me by name. “What God has made clean, do not call profane.”
This truth extends to so much more than just the LGBTQ+ community. It is part of our human nature to draw boundaries of who is “in” or “out,” “good” or “bad,” “us” or “them,” and as followers of Christ, we are not immune to this tendency. We exclude others from God’s story because they do not fit our preconceived notion of who God might want or value.
We can also use this tendency against ourselves. Even in normal times, we often feel like we are not enough. In a global pandemic, when everything is different, and our brains are trying to process the trauma and instability, the normal things we do for ourselves, our families, and God have been disrupted. In these trying times, it’s so easy to feel like failures and disappointments to God.
But let us not forget that God has chosen, out of God’s great love, to include us in God’s story. God loves us, pandemic brain, drop in productivity, listlessness, depression and all. If we continue to belittle ourselves and count up every single flaw as if God were holding them against us, then we reject God’s embrace. Whether we discredit others or ourselves, we miss out on God’s overwhelming love.
God has called us clean. Beloved. Enough for God to use. And that applies to all of us. What God has made clean, let us not call profane.
— Alex M. Griffin