Following the Model of True Hospitality

I love food. I love having people over to my home, I love cooking, I just really enjoy everything associated with hosting, participating, and serving those who enter my home.
Few acts are more expressive of companionship than a shared meal…Someone with whom we share food is likely to be our family, a close friend, or well on the way to becoming one.

In fact the word Companion comes from the word “Com” (coom) meaning together, and “panis (pa–nees) “Bread.” Just think about your own life, how many meaningful conversations, important decisions, fun, and even hard times have been experienced around a dinner table or shared meal?

I believe that the Bible portrays food as an amazing Gift that has potential to bless our families, neighbors and others in ways that nice words, greeting cards, and money cannot. Throughout human history and across cultures shared meals have been central to the family, community, and essentially all relationships regardless of gender, ethnicity, economic standing, or age.

But in our current historical moment, we all sense at something went wrong with our shared meals in America, we lament declining food quality, decreased patience for cooking, food snobbery, increased demand outside ourselves which often leads to a decreased time for shared meals with those closest to us. There seems to be a mountain of other factors leading to isolation during meals, underconsumption (due to being too busy to eat) and overconsumption. In fact, dealing with overconsumption. Americans spend over $50 billion per year on dieting, trying to solve the problem of food gone wrong. In fact, Tim Chester in Good News to the Poor points out that in recent years American Christians have spent more on dieting than on world missions. Meaning that we tend to spend more money on trying to cure our overconsumption than we do feeding the physically and spiritually needy of the world.

Don’t beat yourself up yet. This isn’t going to be a post or rant telling you to stop eating or drinking good food and drink (I hope you do it more!). Rather like with all things we ought to consider how we do even the mundane things for the Glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). We ought to eat, drink, laugh, weep, play, invest, and challenge in people over a shared meal, but a Christian does so with a different purpose, we always ought to engage each area of our lives with a larger perspective than just the present. Because as C.S. Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” And like anything in our faith, the blueprint for our life should be Jesus. He always says “Follow Me”, which means “do what I do”, so I hope to serve up a series of posts to seek to explore what Jesus did around ordinary tables to eternally impact people.

Consider Luke 7:34, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”

The Bible not only says WHY Jesus came (Mk. 10:45, Lk. 19:10), but Luke also comments and gives picture to HOW Jesus came, “eating and drinking.” We would do well in our efforts to minister and reach family and friends with the Gospel of Jesus to access the lost art of Hospitality or setting out to not just welcoming those close to us, but receive those who may be very different from us.

In short, Jesus regularly taught, displayed, and received hospitality. So much so that those opposing him accused him of gluttony and drunkenness! It seems that sharing meals with people was central to the way in which Jesus reached people. Through his life he modeled for us that the act of loving our neighbor is an essential & non-negotiable Christian practice. Christian Hospitality itself is “offering a generous welcome to the least, without concern for the advantage or benefit of the host.”

Christine D. Pohl in her amazing book Making Room says that “Hospitality is not optional for Christians, nor is it limited to those who are specially gifted for it. It is, instead, a necessary practice in the community of faith.” But why is Hospitality such a necessary practice within the Christian Community? In short, it is because it enacts and embodies God’s Grace. God by himself is never in need, or anxious about provision. God is self-sufficient, simply by existing. The Bible repeatedly says the LORD is not dependent or in need of anything. (Psalm 50:10-12, Psalm 90:2) Likewise God cannot be repaid – Job 41:11. But out of his wholeness, he welcomes the needy, broken, and repentant.

We read that salvation is of Grace in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” This truth is central to the Christian faith and message. That God who is un-obligated to anyone, chooses to redeem people out of his love for his own. Likewise there is nothing worthwhile in people that deserves to be redeemed, but our God loving chooses to do so. And this redemption that God gives to his people results in full acceptance, and access to our creator and redeemer. Therefore Grace is amazing because it brings “Full acceptance to an undeserving person by an un-obligated giver”. It is the LORD’s determined love for people that don’t deserve it, yet by Grace through faith we are welcomed into the full rights and privileges of Christ. So if we desire to be truly hospitable, it will contradict our cultural understanding of who is valuable and “good to be with.”

True biblical hospitality from a worldly perspective is as unappealing as biblical Grace. Meaning that when we consider WHO the LORD has redeemed and the qualifications the possess, we often echo the pharisees and murmur “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman (person) this is who is touching him, for she (they) is/are a sinner” (Luke 7:39). God’s choice in redemption often leaves us scratching our heads, because it is not based on the outward performance of those chosen, rather it’s based solely on God’s outpouring of love in election (Eph. 1:5). This is the upside down way the kingdom of God works in order to demonstrate that all of life and salvation is nothing but a work of unmerited favor from God. If God chose those who the world would deem “worthy”, christianity would collapse into every other world religion and system. But Jesus demonstrates through his life and ministry that God does not conform to the world, rather he is faithfully shaping this present world to his coming kingdom.

So our efforts to show hospitality are not to only include close friends, family, and those who we deem worthy. Rather our hospitality should seek to model God’s grace by beginning to consider what it would mean at times to intentionally include those who “don’t deserve it.”

By doing so we may show a watching world that our faith is not an exclusive club for those who “have it together” but a place where Christ begins to be our uniting factor, not race, economic standing, cultural relevance, or anything else. Therefore biblical hospitality is set on modeling God and his character through meals, provision,and relationships. Just as God’s Grace continually builds the Kingdom of God by his sovereign decree, may our hospitality serve as a instrument in the redeemers hand to model his character and love in order to see many grafted into the family.

So by way of introduction to a Biblical Theology of Meals, Hospitality and Food consider who you could welcome into your home, schedule, family, office, life. And in so doing, follow the ministry model Jesus set for us.

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