Series on Love, Part 9
In Luke 4:4 Jesus said that man does not live by bread alone but by every word of God. But if so, why does Jesus go on to spend so much time at meals and talking about food?
We require something more fundamental to survive than just meat and drink. Man has deeper spiritual needs. Jesus uses food metaphorically. Jesus uses our need for food, symbolically. We are used to food metaphors like Jesus as the manna from heaven. But another Example is John 6:27 “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”
Food is a great metaphor because it represents a very instinctual need that every human has in common. Substitutionary atonement can be difficult for some people to grasp. But everyone understands “You’re hungry and I have food that will satisfy you forever and I give it to you gladly.”
Table fellowship is a way to get people involved in your day to day life. It’s a way to get involved in other people’s day to day life. But it’s not about the food, even though the food is a real tangible blessing. Ultimately it’s about building relationships.
Jesus chose the table and meals as the basis for His teaching ministry because it’s more intimate and people focused. Hospitality involves welcoming, creating time and space, listening, paying attention, and providing.
Meals slow things down. Some of us don’t like that. We like to get things done. But meals force us to be people oriented instead of task oriented. We have more important, more fundamental needs than food can satisfy but it was largely through poetical statements about food and through table fellowship that Jesus addressed the needs and developed opportunities to come along side people to teach and serve them.
Table fellowship provides us with the opportunity to minister to people’s deeper needs.
Jesus didn’t gather around the table just to shoot the breeze. He was intentional about the parables and metaphors as well as the context of table fellowship to minister to people’s deeper needs. I am not saying that we get people around our table to lecture them. But through story and conversation we relate the love of the kingdom as we gather around a table.
A table is less threatening. The focus is on the sustenance and service and it puts people at ease. Table fellowship is easier than other forms of interaction. I have seen a lot of self-conscious pretense evaporate in attempts to eat sloppy Joes gracefully. It’s about our families though as well. Do you know what my kids often need more than food? Me. Time with me. The best opportunity for that is when we gather around the table.
While we are there we are feeding each other’s deeper needs. At the table my kids get unbroken, unfettered interaction with me. Especially if we are intentionally creating interactive, joyful, soul feeding time.
The hardest thing to schedule as a father is family worship. Or time to read stories. In the Kloss house we build that time around the dinner table where you have to sit and spend time together already. I am by no means perfect at this. But some of the most fruitful and influential parenting I have accomplished was at the dinner time. Table fellowship isn’t about food, it’s an opportunity to get at hearts. To express love purely and undistracted.
I am busy with grown up problems all day but at the table I can ask my 6 year old about what troubles him. He is offered my focused attention. My little 15 month old can look into my eyes while I feed her and listen to her babble. I can feed her stomach and her heart at the same time.At 5-6 pm, you know what my wife needs more than anything else? A break. An opportunity to and not get up 15 times for more bread, butter, etc. it’s an opportunity to have her rest and receive the nourishment of my help and service.
Dinner isn’t about eating it’s about feeding my family’s deeper needs. It is a time to be fed with the joy and rest they provide me. They tell me their jokes and stories and perspective. Inviting people to participate in that kind of life is an outreach program built right into my family.
Food is a need that provides an opportunity to minister to deeper, weightier needs. Everybody’s got to eat. Everybody. And that need is a means to get into their life and love them. To show materially and personally that you are interested in and care about them.
It’s not just the guests who will be served. You will learn to think more of others and their needs and your deeper need to grow up into Christ will be fulfilled. We die to ourselves by ignoring how much the house needs a cleaning and how we just want to watch TV and instead, open our homes and lives to others.
Sins will be committed, pantries emptied, floors dirtied, dishes broken. It’s an expense in time, treasure and comfort to Love others in this way. But table fellowship is key to our witness. Our growth. Our mission. Love came eating and drinking and Love compels us to eat and drink as an expression of the love we have received.
It’s inconvenient but we have to allow ourselves to be inconvenienced. By one another and by our neighbors. Don’t bait and switch them either. Open your doors. Gather around the table and serve. You’re proclaiming through that selfless service far more than you realize. People eat and drink every day and we ought to use that as the means to feed them what they really, truly need; grace.