The Table

Three phrases people love the most: I love you! You’re forgiven! Let’s eat! These phrases are all about relationship. Everybody needs love, forgiveness, and connection to be healthy. Interestingly, this is discovered first in Christ. John 3 and Revelation 3 communicate how God loved the world (I love you), that he gave his only Son (you’re forgiven), and Jesus stands at the door of our hearts, knocking. If we open the door, he comes in to eat with us and us with him (let’s eat). We were created in the image of God, who is a community within himself as the Trinity. God created us with a design of community, giving us a deep sense of desire for community.

Jesus came and bypassed all order of religion that neglected relationship. Suddenly he’s having meals with sinners. The Last Supper is a famous meal Jesus had with his disciples. Obviously, this was very common for Jesus to eat with his friends. After Jesus rose from the grave, one of the first things he did was eat a meal with his friends. It is interesting that in the very beginning, we see a meal that was eaten without God ruining everything. Then in the concluding chapters of the book of Revelation, we find another meal: the marriage supper of the Lamb. Jesus is all about inviting the world to the table of the Lord, where we all become friends with God. Only through Jesus does the altar give access to the table.

“You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, “How have we defiled You?” In that you say, “The table of the LORD is to be despised.” (Malachi 1:7, NAS)

Notice how the altar and the table are eternally connected. The sacrifices on the altar are unacceptable when the table is defiled. The sacrifice on the altar is only pleasing if the table is in proper order. If you’re disconnected from fellowship with God, your offering is not acceptable. The table of the Lord also involves His family. Jesus said in Matthew: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23–24, NIV).

Obviously, we all need to make room for relationships as our highest priority! Expressing our love, our forgiveness, and our time to connect over a meal all produce a demonstration of hospitality we find clearly revealed in Christ as our ultimate example. Jesus invited us to his table so we would invite others to our table.

Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them…get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner. (Romans 12:9–13, NLT).

We live in a day where people live isolated and lonely lives. True Christianity introduces Jesus as the relational answer to this painful deficiency that exists in the lives of so many people. The pursuit of great influence in big platforms can cause us to miss the power of meaningful impact on personal levels.

God loved the world in big ways, but it wasn’t until He embraced humanity in his smallest posture of intimate existence that the world could forever be changed. We tend to express grand statements of big love in the songs we sing and the sermons we celebrate. It’s not until we take a small posture of intimate connection with people on a personal level that lives will be changed. People ministering to people on a personal level will truly change the world.

Jesus spoke to masses of people very rarely, and these large groups were remarkably fickle. The same crowd who wanted to celebrate him was the same crowd who later wanted to crucify him. It was the very few whom he spent his most intimate time with who turned their world upside down.

After many years of serving his congregation, Pastor Simon came to his final Sunday. He had given his life to ministry and was now entering into the next season of life. His words carried incredible weight and spoke of legacy after decades of sacrificial ministry. He skillfully used his words like an accomplished artist to paint a masterpiece as his concluding message that day. The church family responded by coming forward, embracing, weeping, and laughing, offering their love and appreciation for his years of faithful service to their families. He fully expected to hear accolades of gratitude for all the wonderful messages he’d preached. Something very interesting happened that day. Not one person thanked him for a sermon. Dozens and dozens of specific situations were voiced as this church family thanked him for being there personally in moments of crisis, helping in times of need, and making a difference in the lives of individuals.

Pastor Simon experienced an ocean of comments thanking him for the hands and feet of his ministry. Not one person ever even mentioned the mouth of his ministry. It wasn’t that the mouth wasn’t important congregationally because it was. The simple truth of ministry is that individual influence is more powerful than institutional influence. At the core of our faith in and love for Jesus Christ, the most important objective is to love people personally just like Jesus does.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, saying in 1 Corinthians 4:20, “The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk.” If we amputate the hands and feet from the Body of Christ and keep only a big mouth, we settle for making a point when we’re called to make a difference.

The enemy loves to trick us into squandering away our ability to effectively address injustice by giving ourselves to self-absorbed rants. Don’t just tell us what you’re against. Show us what you’re about. Help us reimagine a better story.

People caring for people makes the world a better place. People complaining about people makes the world a bitter place. The oversimplification of life’s very complicated problems is very damaging and divisive. Nobody can have all the facts, but somehow it’s very easy to feel completely confident that we have all the answers in our passionate discussions. This shows up very clearly in America every four years, when the right political candidate resonates with our ideas, justifying the positions we have believed to be right all along.

One of the greatest contributors to angry religious arguments is that preaching has become the emphasis of our churches rather than the catalyst for personal ministry. Gathering to embrace the teaching of God’s Word has always been part of God’s plan for worship. The New Testament church was born as Peter preached to masses of people. Once the multitude was converted, they didn’t indoctrinate the converts with talking points. Disciples invested in them, helping them becoming disciples who cared for others, sacrificially following the example of Jesus loving, serving, and giving into the lives of other people. We must purpose to invest ourselves in the lives of others in a very intimate and intentional way. This is how we make the most of our eternal assignment in these temporal years.

Preaching serves the purpose of empowering the church to perform the work of the ministry. Our city will be transformed by our Christian hospitality over tables long before it will be transformed by pastors preaching in their pulpits. The doctrine of Christian hospitality is something that is required of pastors in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. We see this is required of Christians in Romans 16. where Paul commands the whole church there to practice hospitality. Hospitality is welcoming people into your life and into your home to sit together at your table, treating them in a gracious way, expressing love through friendship.

Jesus came teaching in Matthew 10:7 that the kingdom of God is at hand, revealing that life’s greatest treasures are within our reach. In a world that is overcommitted and under-connected, it is easy to miss out on the deeper, more meaningful treasures of life. The essence of hospitality is something that comes very naturally from within our families rather than something we fabricate in efforts to evangelize.

Don’t underestimate or underuse the power of the kitchen table! My wife and I had our first date over a meal. Coming together for a meal has become a sacred place of common connection in our marriage and now for our family. The transforming power of hospitality has a profound influence on our children as we prepare food together, set the table together, have a meal with conversation on every level of life, and then clean up together. Sometimes the conversation is deep and meaningful. Sometimes the conversation is light and humorous. Always the place of the table is a safe place where everybody can be themselves, and we get to know each other through the seasons of life. It shouldn’t surprise us to discover that countries with strong food cultures typically have a strong family culture.

The Bible describes how Jesus prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. Perhaps the idea behind this is to sit with us and connect with us according to His ways, protecting us from wrong ways of thinking represented as our enemies. Studies show that the more often families eat together, the less likely kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, be depressed, and consider suicide. Also, they are more likely to do well in school, delay having sex, eat their veggies, learn big words, and know which fork to use. It’s this regularly shared meal, not holiday feasts, that anchors the family. Some nights, it is a fast-paced eat-and-run experience when everybody at the table is thinking about other places they truly need to be. However, the pattern of the table produces something profound in our lives and sometimes provides a lingering experience where everybody gets caught up in the conversation and no one feels stupid, shy, or ashamed as conversation erupts. This is where you get a glimpse of the power of a family at the table.

The table was in the holy place in the temple of the Lord, communicating the sacred value of that which might seem so common. It would serve us well to remember that Jesus was so common that it caused many to miss the sacred, powerful, and profound revelation He was carrying for the world. Perhaps we’ve been having conversations with our world through a bullhorn that need to be happening around a coffee table. If we’re not careful, we can easily revert to a bullhorn agenda even while sitting at the coffee table.

Everybody has a system of beliefs, which are born out of personal positions we have derived in our way of thinking. These beliefs are fortified with emotion and branded with experiences, producing arguable conclusions from which we have made many of life’s decisions. Some people are more gracious and loving about their arguable conclusions than others. The application of scripture introduces God’s point of view to our conclusions, fortifying our positions as truly sacred. If we’re not careful, we cultivate talking points more than we cultivate compassion. We must focus on the transforming love of Christ rather than the destructive power of religion.

Wisdom doesn’t attend every argument to which she is invited. We must learn to let love be our argument. It will leave our enemies speechless. When Christians get more interested in winning arguments than loving people, they are simply no longer like Jesus. Having the right argument with the wrong attitude makes you dead right, and nobody wants to be dead, right?

Love and compassion embraces people without feeling obligated to change their point of view. This allows us to discover the power of the table in a variety of relationships. Let your love be louder than your agenda! I love you. You’re forgiven. Let’s eat.

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