Mingling with Gentiles was very risky for a Jew who could be exposed to all sorts of contamination. [The] Jewish midrash states: “It happened that Shimeon the son of Kimkhith (the high-priest) went out to speak with the King of the Arabians, and there came a fleck of spittle from the King’s mouth upon the priest’s garment and so he was unclean; and his brother Judah went in and served instead of him in the high-priest’s office” (http://biblehub.com/commentaries/acts/10-28.htm)
Knowing what that Arabian king might have eaten was enough to change everyone’s worship plans at the temple. One couldn’t be too careful.
Understanding the Jewish gentile phobias helps us understand the paradigm shift Peter faced when he was commanded to go with the three Gentiles to stay at the house of Cornelius. For his stay at the Gentile house, Peter didn’t need a cartload of kosher food to drag along for him and his Jewish companions so they could avoid being defiled by Roman cuisine. To enter a man’s house is to accept his hospitality. They could not sit outside with their sanitary sack lunches until mealtime was over. Peter knew what he was getting into, and God’s words were still ringing in his ears, “What God has made clean, do not call common….”
Christian hospitality is His blessing to us who are no longer separated by the dividing wall of hostility, a wall created by Mosaic ordinances against the formerly unclean nations (Eph:2:14-16). That is why Peter asked the assembled Christian leadership in Jerusalem, “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts:15:10).
Peter was speaking of the Mosaic laws, not only circumcision, but also the food prohibitions. We know this because he proposed that the only laws about food they should impose on the Gentiles were the Noahic laws against things strangled and against blood. The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 agreed and swept away all the food laws that divided Christians and impeded hospitality and fellowship.
Gospel fellowship lowers barriers, but it is risky business for the squeamish. When we are guests, we don’t have much control over what our hosts will eat or say. Instead of reading labels or surgically removing ingredients from their dishes, we can respect, accept, and appreciate their kindness.
--Martin Carey (Former Seventh day Adventist, contributing writer to Proclamation magazine, a quarterly magazine for former Seventh-day Adventists, inquiring Adventists, Sabbatarians, and concerned Christians.)