The table of Love proclaims the Gospel

A Series on Love, part 11

Jesus’ table here obviously proclaims the gospel. This is the body broken and the blood shed to make us sons and daughters of the living God. Our tables must likewise proclaim the gospel. But how? Our table fellowship has to reflect the reality of the Gospel and how it shapes all of our relationships, conversations, attitudes and actions. Jesus welcomed every tribe and tongue. He took away the dividing wall between Greek and Jew. In Christ all Christians are one body and the call to join is for everyone. Our tables therefor must reflect this unity and peace.

Our tables must be a place where everyone from dad to mom to the youngest walker are waiting for an opportunity to jump up and help with spills, getting more milk and passing the platters. No patriarchal lies are allowed where father sits at the head of the table while his dependents fetch everything.  The speech of the table must be edifying, building up the hearers and not full of backbiting or gossip. The Atmosphere must not be sullen, downcast or bleak. Christ’s table is a weekly feast of repentance, song, prayer, edification and rejoicing. Our tables must operate within the paradigm of this reality. At our tables the least shall be greatest. The last first. The master must be a servant.  

Our speech must be seasoned with salt. Out table manners must be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Christ is the light that overcame darkness. We are the redeemed of the Lord, the children of God, the disciples sent to disciple and we must live around tables that reflect the truth, joy and beauty of the Gospel.

We are Holy because of the Gospel and so our tables must be Holy places, set apart, for the glory of God. How could our tables be Holy? Every aspect of our life should reflect the Gospel of our Lord and King. We are telling lies about who we are and who we belong to when our table fellowship and manners don’t reflect or imitate Jesus. We must be hospitable because he was hospitable. We ought not to invite only those who can reciprocate. Our speech must reflect the humility and gentleness of our Lord.

When outsiders come into our house to eat, it’s not a time to leave the gospel in a drawer. We must seek every opportunity to proclaim the gospel by what we think, say and do. And I’m not talking about a lecture or preaching a sermon. Your conversation ought to be full of gospel truth whether you’re talking about movies, news, politics or your plans for the summer.

We cannot have exclusive, graceless tables. We have to use the blessing God has provided daily to bless our neighbors, our church community and our families. Don’t just look to invite over your inner circle. Reach out. I recently noticed something sad around our table. My chair and my eldest son’s chair were situated in such a way that getting up during meals would require others to move, so out of convenience Anne got up to get everything. Furthermore, my wife’s chair has always had the baby, whichever kid was a baby, sitting next to her.I have begun to notice how often my wife’s plate was left with a lot of food on it because she didn’t have the time to finish her meal.

What am I proclaiming about service and sacrifice to my kids and any guests? What kind of headship, service and sacrifice did Jesus demonstrate in the Gospel? Am I telling a lie or the truth about who I belong to, who I serve, about His character and expectations? I moved my son’s and my seat at the table and now he or I get up to fetch things and I feed the baby.  Husbands look around your table and think about what message you are proclaiming about your Lord.

Parents, are you ignoring your children so that you can talk grown up talk? Do the kids participate in the table fellowship or watch? Are you gossiping or backbiting at the table? What is the general attitude of your children when Mom brings the food? Even things they don’t care for? Grumbling? Gratefulness?

Wives. Is the table as abundant as you can make it? Is the table a cluttered mess or is it organized, decorated and prepared? Does it look like a table of thanksgiving? Of truth, beauty and goodness?   When is the last time you toasted something? When you gave thanks beyond the saying of grace? Do our tables reflect the gospel that has given us life and every good and perfect gift in Jesus Christ our Lord?

Tim Chester commented in A meal with Jesus; “In this culture our shared meals offer a moment of grace. A sign of something different. A pointer to God’s coming world. ‘life in the kingdom…demands that we adopt a new set of table manners and as we observe this etiquette, we become increasingly civilized according to the codes of the city of God. Around the table we offer friendship and celebrate life. Our meals offer a divine moment, an opportunity for people to be seduced by grace into a better life, a truer life, and a more human existence.”

Jesus sits at the head of a different table, a table of love. Our tables must imitate His table. We are proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus Christ by imitating His open call, hospitality, generosity, selflessness, sacrifice, kindness and joy around our tables. It was Jesus that used table fellowship and food as a metaphor and teaching tool. We ought to do the same thing. When we are mature we will be like our teacher and teach and minister in the spirit in which he taught and ministered. Don’t just sit at your tables to feed your face. Love came eating and drinking. Let your love go into the world eating and drinking to feed people’s deeper needs.

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