The Challenge of Eating Together
Those who call Jesus Christ both Lord and Savior are part of a
spiritual family. The Family of God consists of people from every walk
of life, every tribe, tongue, and nation. It is a great honor to be
called by His name, and we have a high and holy purpose to fulfill. We
are Christ’s hands, feet, heart, and mind in this world.
As such, followers of Christ have a long history of serving
others. We take our example from Jesus Himself. John 13 records our
Lord, “rose from supper. He laid aside His outer garments, and taking
a towel, tied it around His waist. Then He poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel
that was wrapped around Him.” The Union Gospel Mission has always been
a place where Christians have been able to work out their calling to
But, what about eating? Didn’t Jesus “rise from supper” after
eating the Passover meal with the disciples?
The challenge to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus includes
the task of eating with the people we serve. All too often, we rightly
fulfill our calling to service but wrongly neglect our calling to
share the table. Jesus was criticized for sharing His table a little
too liberally. Matthew records in chapter 9 of his gospel:
“And as Jesus reclined at the table in the house, behold, many tax
collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and His
disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His
disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and
sinners?’ But when He heard it, he said, ‘Those who are well have no
need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this
means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” For I came not to call the
righteous, but sinners.’”
Jesus believed that eating with people showed mercy. I surmise
it’s because sharing a meal is an act reserved for family.
Jesus came to adopt people into the Family of God. He didn’t just
serve those in need; He allowed them to become His family, really and
truly. God in the flesh came to reconcile all people to Himself, and
by doing so, we all find ourselves as equals in the presence of our
Lord. In the gospel of Matthew chapter 12, a man comes to Jesus and
tells Him that His family is outside, waiting to speak to Him:
“But He replied to the man who told Him, ‘Who is my mother, and
who are my brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward His
disciples, He said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever
does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and
Doing the will of our Father in heaven binds us together into a
big, spiritual family. And, I think that we have an obligation to
treat everyone, especially those we serve in the name of Jesus, as
The bottom line is this: we who are not homeless, hungry,
addicted, or deeply struggling people, we have a rich opportunity to
eat with, and learn from, those who are. In doing so, our attempt to
be a blessing shows us a new humility—for we are the ones being
blessed. In reaching out to be family to others, we find ourselves
being reached out to.
Struck by a deep desire to extend fellowship to our brothers and
sisters in need, I began to find occasion to eat dinner down at UGM. I
entered through the famous “East Door” and got in line with everybody
else. The first couple of times, I didn’t even talk to anyone. I felt
very out of place. I thought that everyone there would see I did not
But, they didn’t. We were all united in a common need to eat.
Hunger—both physical and spiritual—is a great equalizer.
As I stepped up to the kitchen window, I was handed a tray of
food. The men of the Mission served me; they even cleared my plate,
washed my dishes, and left me with a “God bless you.” It was humbling.
In time, I made some friends. I prayed for them. It became so
valuable to my spiritual growth, I began to invite people from my
church. I set up three simple rules for “successful ministry.”
Actually eat there. You have to actually go through the east
door and have a meal. It’s surprisingly easy.
Make a friend. You will be surprised at how easy this is, too.
Give it some time and actually try. If you see some of your church
friends down there doing the same, make sure you do not sit with them.
Rather, find someone you don’t know. After a time or two, I found that
I had conversations easily with people who I had seen before or
somehow recognized me. Simply learn a name and commit that person to
Pray for that friend. Even if they aren’t really your friend,
you just know their name. You would be surprised at what happens when
you begin to pray for them. You will find that they are praying for
I am deeply challenged to just be a friend to someone in need.
Most people in need have their physical needs met. Places like UGM do
an amazing job meeting those needs. The friends I have made at UGM
don’t need my food, my clothes, or my money. They need my friendship.
I believe our churches need to provide something they do not have:
spiritual family. We should be eating dinner (it’s free!) with those
I hope to see you, just through the east door of the Union Gospel