I can still remember vividly that cold September Sunday. My wife and I had just arrived in London, where I was to do some further theological training. We found our way to a local church for corporate worship. Immediately after the service, a kind, elderly couple turned around and introduced themselves. Betrayed by our outrageous American accents, we were obviously from “out of town.” Almost without hesitation, this couple, whom we had met only moments before, invited us to have Sunday lunch at their home. What a glorious afternoon we had in a traditional English home. The meal was delicious, but it was the fellowship we shared as brothers and sisters in Christ that was truly satisfying.
One of the blessings we enjoy as Christians is that wherever we find ourselves in the world, we have a community to which we belong, where genuine relationships with other Christians can be enjoyed. If we neglect table fellowship, we will miss one of the wonderful ways God builds authentic community in the church, and we will sacrifice an opportunity to witness to the reality of the kingdom to the world.
As creatures made in God’s image, we were created for relationships, both with God and with other image bearers. By God’s design, therefore, genuine relationships are the basis for all human flourishing. We learn in the Bible that sharing a meal together is one of the primary ways relationships are established, deepened, and enjoyed both with God and with others. Think of the covenant meal the elders of Israel enjoyed with God on Mount Sinai. Moses records the spellbinding experience in Exodus 24:9–11:
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. . . . And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.
The Old Testament prophets often compared life in the new heavens and earth with the picture of a divine banqueting table (Isa. 25:6; 55:1–2). In the New Testament, we regularly find Jesus reclining “at table” during His earthly ministry, engaging with real people, furthering His kingdom work, fostering true community, demonstrating reconciliation with God, and building genuine fellowship among His disciples (Luke 5:29; 7:36; 11:37; 14:15). Of course, Jesus calls us to gather around His table where we enjoy fellowship with Him and with our brothers and sisters by virtue of the Holy Spirit who indwells us (Luke 22:19–20; 1 Cor. 10:15–17). The early church gathered regularly in homes to “break bread together” as a practical expression of their fellowship in Christ (Acts 2:46). The Apostles exhort us to show hospitality (Rom. 12:13; Heb. 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9). Finally, our eternal, joyous, soul-satisfying communion with God and our brothers and sisters in Christ is depicted as the great marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 9:6–10). Eating together is important.