You can tell a lot about a person in regards to their food. Our appetites and our actions around times of dining offer a practical reflection of our walk with Christ.
Meals play a prominent role in the Gospels. Just this morning I read a couple of chapters in Mark, noting how fully half of the unique episodes in the narrative dealt with food and/or meals. The Gospel of Luke can hardly be understood without a careful examination of Jesus and meals.
Food plays a prominent role in the Biblical Story as well. What did God forbid Adam and Eve to do? Eat from one tree. What did God provide in the wilderness? Manna. What did Jesus do with His disciples soon before His death? The Last Supper. What will heaven be like? A wedding feast. My friend and colleague Tony Merida has built into the DNA of Imago Dei (the church plant he serves) the importance of hospitality. Specifically, this means meals with unbelieving friends. I regularly have a meal or coffee with friends who are at various stages of their spiritual journey.
I remind my students each semester of one of the best ways we can help those we lead to live missionally: simply watch how we act when we dine, specifically referring to dining out. The church honestly does not have a good reputation here. Just yesterday I received an email from a student about this subject. He saw in on the Facebook page of a friend who once sat in the same youth group he did but now has become another example of the dechurched. This young man remarked how he loathed serving on Sundays because of the church crowd, who would leave gospel tracts with cartoons about people burning in Hell instead of monetary tips.
The story to which this young man referred had to do with a pastor who refused to pay the auto-tip for a large group. You can read the entire article HERE. Because the group had eight people in it the restaurant automatically added 18% as the gratuity, the normal practice. The pastor did not approve. The article quotes said pastor:
“I give God 10%,” the pastor wrote on the receipt, scratching out the automatic tip and scribbling in an emphatic “0″ where the additional tip would be. “Why do you get 18?”
The pastor later admitted these actions brought shame. But the question is, why would it take a waitress posting this on the Internet for a minister to get that this is not appropriate? My answer, in part: many of us live in such an isolated Christian bubble, surrounded by people who walk, talk, dress, and think like us, that we have virtually lost the ability to relate to people outside our world. As long as we sing praises to God and fulfill our church work, after all, we are good.
Yesterday C.J. Mahaney spoke in chapel from I Corinthians 4. He said when we share the gospel with someone, regardless of their response, they should leave the conversation saying, “That person lives a genuinely grateful life to God, and displays a remarkable humility.” Our attitude and action toward them shows as much about Christ as our words.
Contrast the sad example above with one told by C.H. Spurgeon of a wife who emulated the love of Christ. Spurgeon comments:A husband who was a very loose, depraved, man of the world, had a wife who for many years bore with his ridicule and unkindness, praying for him day and night, though no change came over him, except that he grew even more bold in sin. One night, being at a drunken feast with a number of his boon companions, he boasted that his wife would do anything he wished, she was as submissive as a lamb.
“Now,” he said, “she has gone to bed hours ago; but if I take you all to my house at once she will get up and entertain you and make no complaint.” “Not she,” they said, and the matter ended in a bet, and away they went.
It was in the small hours of the night, but in a few minutes she was up, and remarked that she was glad that she had two chickens ready, and if they would wait a little she would soon have a supper spread for them. They waited, and before long, at that late hour, the table was spread, and she took her place at it as if it was quite an ordinary matter, acting the part of hostess with cheerfulness.
One of the company, touched in his better feelings, exclaimed, “Madam, we ought to apologize to you for intruding upon you in this way, and at such an hour, but I am at a loss to understand how it is you receive us so cheerfully, for being a religious person you cannot approve of our conduct.” Her reply was, “I and my husband were both formerly unconverted, but, by the grace of God, I am now a believer in the Lord Jesus. I have daily prayed for my husband, and I have done all I can to bring him to a better mind, but as I see no charge in him, I fear he will be lost for ever; and I have made up my mind to make him as happy as I can while he is here.”
They went away, and her husband said, “Do you really think I shall be unhappy for ever?” “I fear so,” said she, “I would to God you would repent and seek forgiveness.” That night patience accomplished her desire. He was soon found with her on the way to heaven.
Spurgeon then drove home the point: “Yield on no point of principle, but in everything else be willing to bear reproach, and to be despised and mocked at for Christ’s sake.” If we cannot at something so simple as a meal show compassion and generosity to those who serve us, how can we tell others we love Christ who came not to be serve but to serve?
If across our great land servers began to see believers consistently go into restaurants with an heart of service, asking service how we can pray for them, showing kindness to them, tipping better than the minimum, and growing in relationships with the servers in our community, we might see many come to Christ. I have seen a few, and my students have seen many more. Next week, during Valentine’s season, our Young Pros ministry small groups will be loving on servers in our community, giving them things like Krispy Kreme doughnuts for break times and a lot of ink pens (servers have to provide their own), among other things. What might you do in your community to show the love of Christ to those who serve?
[Spurgeon story comes from http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/1188.htm]