As I sat, listening to the buzz of conversation happening around our table, my mind ran to all the meals Jesus ate with people. Jesus intentionally used food to be with people and we were following in His example with our Family Meal.
Family Meals are a part of our regular life rhythm where we invite our not-yet-believing friends, and believers who we are discipling, to eat together. Leading up to each Family Meal we pray that God would direct the conversation to spiritual things so that, eventually, we may share the Gospel with our friends and, at the same time, model for our believing friends how to reach those far from God.
At this Family Meal, we invited a Christian couple with whom we had been journeying for a year, another couple, and our neighbours. As a way of gently showing our guests that we are believers in Jesus Christ, and opening the door to spiritual conversations, we start our meals by inviting people to pray with us. No one has ever said no to this invitation.
Looking around our table, I saw Vanessa laughing with our friends. The first time they came over for a meal we invited them to pray with us, thanking God for the food. At the end of the evening they both said that we should do it again and, a month later, they invited us to their place to reciprocate our invitation. My family of five walked into their apartment with declarations to the kids of, “Don’t touch anything!” We sat down to eat and, before I could put the first bite in my mouth, our friend stopped me and stated, “You should pray.” Caught off guard I responded, “This is your space. We don’t have to pray.” Her wife countered, “No. You should pray!” A little shocked, but giddy inside, I said, “Alright, let’s pray!” We held hands and once again we prayed in Jesus’ name, thanking God for His provision and for our friends.
As the Family Meal progressed that day, I started talking with our believing friends about church things and Jesus. When our conversation ended, I noticed that our neighbour was listening intently, so I asked him, “What do you believe about Jesus?” His eyes widened, and for the next twenty minutes he passionately explained his belief that Jesus is a being from another dimension who enters our time and space to embody the twenty-one virtues of the universe. I wasn’t shocked at this, because we had previously invited them to play dates in the park, and we had already talked about his New Age beliefs. My believing friend was stunned by such a passionate response. He had grown up in the church his grandfather planted, his father pastored, and where he was actively serving in a preaching ministry. However, with all this church background, he approached me after this Family Meal and expressed his surprise at the type of people we allow into our house. He said, “My parents would never have done that.” Our intentional hospitality with our not-yet-believing friends was shocking to his religious evangelical upbringing.
Jesus, as our perfect example, used all things to proclaim and demonstrate that the Kingdom was near, and He particularly used food. We have the incredible opportunity to follow Jesus’ example by eating with people so that we may one day declare that Jesus is the true Bread of Life that satisfies. We get to follow Jesus’ example of eating with sinners, showing compassion and the presence of Jesus to those the church has often despised (see Luke 19:1-10). We all have to eat, so we might as well use it as an opportunity to be the presence of Jesus to others, both the religious and the not-yet-believers.