1 Cor 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (ESV)
I still remember the early days with fondness, when Lorna and I started dating and she met my university friends. At the time Lorna was living at home with her parents in Norfolk and I was living and working in Sheffield. One Friday evening, Lorna travelled up to Sheffield, and after getting herself settled into the spare room of some friends who lived just around the corner, we all went out for dinner. This was a pretty daunting moment for Lorna! I don’t remember the exact number but it must have been ten or so of my close friends all sat around a large table eating pizza and drinking wine and wanting to get to know her! We’d all been at university together and lived in the same houses for the last three years. As you can imagine, this was a pretty tight community or ‘family’. Yet as the night unfolded, I could see Lorna relaxing and slowly moving from being an outsider to enjoying the company of my friends and being part of the crowd. Defences started to come down and jokes started to flow, especially between Lorna and Glen who grew up in ‘souf-east’ London.
Why am I telling you all of this? Well, there is something universal about sitting and sharing food together that cuts across culture, gender, age and social class. It’s a wonderful place for friendships to be forged, fears to be dispelled and community to be strengthened.
Maybe this all sounds a little too ‘unspiritual’, but notice what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31 about living a God-glorifying life! He doesn’t focus on special Sunday gatherings, although these are important. Instead, he draws our attention to the apparently unspiritual, even mundane issue of eating and drinking. In the eyes of the Apostle Paul, there is nothing that we do that can’t in some way either bring attention to the glory of God or sadly, diminish it in the eyes of those around us. This includes the way we use our time, our table and our tummy!
Just think again for a moment about those few hours that Lorna spent in the restaurant with my friends or my ‘community’. In many ways, they are very much like those first few minutes that countless people have experienced as newcomers at Kingsgate. These newcomers are stepping into our world, our community and our relationships. Why don’t we make it a priority to use the universal language of a meal to help people, like Lorna experienced, move from being an outsider looking in, to someone who belongs and is part of the crowd!
As I’ve said before, hospitality is not the ability to provide Michelin star cooking, but rather, it’s the ability to open up your home and lives to strangers and make them feel welcome, in a way that you would want Jesus to feel welcome in your home.