In my daily practice as a dermatopathologist, I may diagnose diseases that look identical under the microscope but have a very different diagnosis depending upon the age of the patient and the location on the body. A skin tag is a common lesion, usually found on the necks or armpits of adults. The microscopic features are distinct and are not normally mistaken for any other diagnosis. However, if I viewed the same microscopic features and was told it was from the neck or armpit of a 1 month old baby, my diagnosis would not be a skin tag but an epidermal nevus. The latter disease may be associated with serious internal abnormalities and may require an additional radiological examination.
Same location, different diagnosis.
During our Christian walk, we may fall into a similar trap and view circumstances that we encounter as meaning the same thing for different people and different cultures. But what is true and relevant in one circumstance, may not hold true for another.
The Apostle Peter encountered such a situation when the Holy Spirit led him to preach the Gospel to Gentiles, non-Jews. Up to that point, the Gospel was being preached almost exclusively to Jews. But God directed Peter in a most unusual manner. While in a trance, God provided him a vision of a great sheet, lowered from Heaven, containing all types of unclean animals, forbidden by the Jewish Levitical laws to be eaten. Then, the God commanded Peter to kill and eat these forbidden animals. Peter naturally recoiled in horror, and protested saying that he has never defiled himself by eating these unclean and forbidden animals. But God answered his protests.
But the voice answered a second time from heaven, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”
What was once a sin for him was a sin no longer. God had cleansed the formerly common or unclean animals through the saving blood of Jesus Christ. Because of this vision, the Gospel began to be preached to the Gentile world.
There are many instances where customs that were practiced during the time of the Apostles are no longer relevant today. The wearing of head coverings by men and women may seem a nonsensical issue in the 21st century but it was a raging controversy in the 1st century church at Corinth.
We need to be diligent in the study of God’s Word. We need to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. And we need to carefully apply our beliefs as we preach the Gospel to all people in all cultures.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.