I love to eat. It is just that simple. I always have and hopefully I always will. To me there is something about a wonderful meal where I can relax from the stress of my day and enjoy those I care about the most. In my mind, a good meal is one where the food is shared, time it taken to slow down and calm down, and people share what is going on in their lives. Sure, the food tasting good is important. But what really matters is the people.
We have all eaten a meal by ourselves. And unless we were on the brink of starvation it really wasn’t that impressive of an event for most of us. We ate, and it was over. However, if you add people to the mixture then what we can achieve is an incredible opportunity for relationship building and ministry to happen. For some reason, when people are seated at the table and the food is being eaten, they let their guard down and open up to other people. The crazy thing is that this even occurs with people we don’t know that well!
I honestly believe this is why the first century Church made eating together a priority. It did three major things: it met the needs of those in the Church and the community, it grew the relationships between the members of the Church, and it created opportunities to minister to those outside the Church. All of this is possible by simply taking time to share a meal together. Great and miraculous things can occur when we share our table with others.
We have seen from the example in Acts chapter 2 that this was a regular thing for the first century Church. It was part of their everyday lives. They shared their meals to grow deeper in their relationships and to share with those in need. Remember that it was not so simple as to drive to a supermarket and buy food. Sure, in many cities there were markets but they still cost money. For the majority of believers food was grown and developed in gardens and flocks. To share a meal was to share from the wealth God had blessed you with and it became an intimate thing.
Meals were also not a quick event in their culture. Both the Jewish and Hellenistic cultures took a long time to eat meals and a great deal of conversation happened during the courses. For many, dinner was the entertainment for the day and people could rest from a day of hard labor. Unlike our fast food culture where meals are consumed quickly and often on the go, they understood that to share a meal was to share of who they were with someone else.
To take this a little further, let’s look at an important passage that outlines the Apostles’ desires for how the Church should operate. We’ll look at 1 Peter 4. Take some time to read the entire chapter. Now let’s examine a few verses to illuminate our point:
1 Peter 4 (NLT):
 The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers.  Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.  Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.
Notice the context here: the world is not going to last forever so we should share what we have with others. To put it another way: God did not give us our stuff to take with us to Heaven but to share with others here on Earth. The first century Church lived like Jesus would return any day and they shared their things, their homes, their money, and their food with each other. Sadly, we have lost sight of that important view. Jesus will come back and whether he comes in our lifetime or we see him in Heaven we will have to give an account of how we managed the things he gave us.
Here is my point: if it was important enough to be mentioned numerous times in the Old and New Testament, we should share meals together. We should make time to eat with our families, and to use our dinner tables as an altar to sacrifice to God. We can give of our pantries and our wallets to share intimate times with family, friends, and those who need Christ. I have noticed a very neat thing in my lifetime: many people who will never set foot in a Church building will be more than glad to eat a meal in my home.
Okay, one more point to make is that people let their guards down in our homes. They are made comfortable when we share our homes with them and they feel like we honestly care. If I pray with someone in a church building that is great. But if I open the doors of my home and share a meal with someone then that is taking it to an entirely different level (I call this a HNL: a “hole notha’ level”). We can earn the trust of someone who needs Christ much faster if they come to our homes a few times and learn that we really do care.
What does this mean for you today? It may mean that you need to change your routine and get the family to turn off the television and share dinner together regularly. It may mean that you need to get your small group together (like we talked about yesterday) for a meal to grow your relationships. Or, maybe you need to invite one of your normal (lost) friends over for dinner to develop the relationship further so you can share Jesus with them. (You do have lost friends, right? Maybe that’s another post). Whatever the reason, cook a meal (or buy a pizza), set the table, and build relationships through food today.