Sharing Meals (and Grace) Together
Pastor Eugene shares how having a simple meal with others is a powerful way of showing the love and grace of Christ.
One of the key aspects of Jesus’ earthly ministry is how He eats with many different people—both the religious as well as the irreligious, Pharisees and tax collectors. The Gospels record a number of instances where He shares a meal with people in their homes. This past Sunday, we heard from Luke 5:27-39 about one such instance, where Levi invites Jesus to a great feast in his house, together with a large company of tax collectors.
Jesus models hospitality for us. In fact, He has welcomed us into God’s household when we were still far off. Jesus sought us while we were strangers, wandering from the fold of God. The gospel is the good news of how God has been hospitable to us through His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Not surprisingly, hospitality is held out as a particularly Christian virtue. In Jesus’ day, people would “help” others with the intention of being rewarded or recognised. But not so for the disciples of Christ: We are to walk in the footsteps of our Master by “contributing to the needs of the saints and by seeking to show hospitality” (Rom 12:13). If Jesus stooped to serve, then should not His followers do likewise?
Being hospitable can be challenging. I remember giving rides to and from church to someone else. Honestly, there were times when my heart begrudged the effort and inconvenience. I needed to hear Peter’s encouragement to persevere in showing hospitality “without grumbling” (1 Pet 4:9).
But we cannot do so in our own strength. Being hospitable requires us to depend on God. He alone can empower us to love and serve sacrificially. Showing hospitality does not mean we are “strong” and others are “weak”. Rather, it demonstrates that we are all in need of God’s grace, whether in giving or receiving.
Meals embody friendship and welcome. Sharing a meal with someone is a simple but profound way of showing hospitality to others. It does not have to be anything fancy or lavish. Christlike hospitality is distinct from worldly notions of “entertaining guests”. The aim is to love and serve others, not impress them. After all, Jesus urges us not to expect a self-interested return: “If you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” (Lk 6:33)
When we share a meal, we also share our lives with someone else. We invite them to enter our lives, and seek an opportunity to enter theirs. Hospitality involves welcoming a stranger, so that we might get to know them and do good to them as a neighbour.
Eating together is a practical way of obeying the exhortations in Ephesians 4. When we share a meal, we can “speak the truth in love” to one another (v15). We can encourage one another with words that are “good for building up, as fits the occasions, that give grace to those who hear” (v29).
Many of us lead busy lives. So it is best to keep things simple. Practise hospitality by sharing an ordinary meal with others. For example, Claire and I often have others join us for our regular family meals—nothing elaborate or special, just an everyday meal that allows them to do life with us.
Here are some other suggestions for how we can be hospitable through sharing meals with others:
- Use your lunches during the workweek to get to know your co-workers, or to meet with other believers who work near you.
- Invite several others to join you for lunch after church. Try to include both church members and newcomers, so you can help connect them to one another.
- Meet someone for breakfast along your commute to work.
- Meet for coffee or dessert if preparing a whole meal is too difficult.
- Try to invite believers and non-Christians, so that the latter have an opportunity to observe and experience Christian community.
I believe it is not an overstatement to say the significance of our ordinary, shared meals will echo into eternity. Tim Chester observed in an interview with The Gospel Coalition, “A meal in the presence of God is the goal of salvation… The Bible story ends with a meal as we celebrate the wedding supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19. Every time we eat together as Christians, we are anticipating this hope.”
So let’s press on in being hospitable, as we prepare to gather again this weekend!
Join us for our monthly prayer meeting at 8pm on Friday. Come and hear about how God is working in and through our church community. Let’s unite our hearts to pray for God’s continued help and blessing.
This Sunday, we’ll be hearing from Luke 6:1-16 about the Lord of rest. Thanks to what Jesus has done, we can find true rest in Him. We will also remember Christ’s saving work by celebrating the Lord’s Supper together. Do examine our own lives and relationships with one another, so that we share in this meal in a Christ-honouring way.