The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour.
Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance
and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth.
In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.
And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.”
But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”
And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”
This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.— Acts 10:9-16
Peter balks at eating the “unclean” creatures, which is the main focus of this incident: accepting and receiving people who had not been considered “God’s people”. But there’s another key part of the command: he’s supposed to kill them, too.
Why would he have to do that? Why wouldn’t the meat already be laid out in the sheet — maybe with those little pointy things shaped like the animals, like you get at some dinner parties so you know which is the steak and which is the pork?
Because killing is an essential part of one’s Salvation. Paul writes that we have to
… put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,
in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.— Colossians 3:5-7
People who come to Christ ultimately make their own decision, whether to put off the “old man” and put on the “new man” (Colossians 3:9-10), but those of us witnessing Jesus to them have to be responsible for helping in that “killing” — just as an accessory to murder is held just as responsible as the one who pulls the trigger.
There was no way the “meat” of those unclean creatures could have been prepared for Peter ahead of time. Those who are not “God’s people” to begin with need an outside force to introduce them to Him — resulting in that “killing”. That outside force could be as simple as planting a seed and trusting that it will grow, or something a bit more complicated, like doing random acts of kindness toward others and then crediting Jesus when someone wants to call us a “hero” (even if that leads to ridicule).
“All religions are about killing,” I’ve heard on occasion — especially when it’s pointed out that people in some other religion are directed to kill those who don’t believe. I’ve shot back that Jesus is not about religion or forcing people to convert on pain of death, but now I realize that that’s not altogether so. There is an element of killing when someone comes to Jesus. Just not the way others do it.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,
casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.— 2 Corinthians 10:3-6
So when the opportunity presents itself to witness Jesus to people who don’t yet know the “meat” will not be laid out on the table for us. We’re responsible for “killing” — helping them put off the old person and put on the new.