The Bible is replete with admonishments concerning, encouragement toward and examples of hospitality. Jesus was called a drunk and a glutton because he knew the place of a good meal in the lives of people. More specifically, people who were deemed unclean by the contemporary religious sensibilities. He knew that entering further into the world of outsiders and working to let them know they were understood was important. It was through that kind of relationship he could reveal God’s salvific plan, himself.
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!” (Luke 7.34)
I would love to do a thorough overview of meals in scripture and look at the meals that Jesus shared with others in and out of the faith. However, I would suggest you read A Meal With Jesus by Tim Chester which is a really great book. I have read it 2-3 times and it keeps getting better. I will instead talk about two meals that Tara and I shared with others in South Africa that I think of often.
The first was shared with a family that is neither rich nor poor and there was no pretense in the meal at all. Most of the time when you are invited for a meal it becomes an ordeal where everything is perfect, a spilled drink would be catastrophe and children must not be children. They were the first family in South Africa to invite us in and we ate Boerewors, a sausage that is uncut and left in large coil shape and it is very salty and juicy with fat and delicious. This particular sausage was cooked perfectly. The sides for this meal were leftovers. Would you do that? This was my most memorable meal from our time in Cape Town previously. Why?
Tara knew the family before but I did not and they invited me in to share in their food where I inevitably saw their good parenting, their own unique marital communication, and how a genuine love for the Lord played out in their lives.
The second meal is less of a singular one and more a genre of meals we shared with out students in South Africa. Every month we would bring all of the students who had a birthday in that particular month to our house for a special meal. There the students shared in a strange thing called a burrito or made their own pizza/calzone by themselves and a number of other firsts for them. We would go to the beach together and even do the grocery shopping together, at a primarily white grocery stores at that.
Anytime you are working or teaching or preaching it is easy to put on an air of who you wish you were. But when you are at home the story is different. Giving our students a culinary, social, and familial alternative to what they were used at home and school was immensely helpful in the relationship we shared with them. We were able to show them that you can pray before a meal in a non-institutional way. You could have good and helpful conversation. We were able to show them what a genuine family looks like as led by the Spirit and filtered through the Gospels vision for a family.
Meals are powerful. Share them with someone who needs the Gospel or needs to see better how the Gospel should be lived out. Share them with someone along with your spouse or children or usual friends. It will be a blessing to you. It will be a blessing for them. I will allow Tim Chester to close it out,
Hospitality involves welcoming, creating 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 you to be people oriented instead of task oriented. Sharing a meal is not the only way to build relationships, but it is number one on the list…Hospitality will lead to “collateral damage.” Food will be spilled on your carpet. You’ll be left with clearing up. Your pantry may be decimated. But remember that God is welcoming you into his home through the blood of his own Son. The hospitality of God embodies in the table fellowship of Jesus is a celebration and sign of his grace and generosity. And we’re to imitate that generosity. (pp.48-49 Chester)