This summer, I had the privilege of travelling to New Orleans with my two oldest children. After taking a tour on the Mississippi and a long walk through the city, Anna, David, and I found a wonderful Cajun restaurant in the heart of the French Quarter. Wanting Anna and David to experience some classic New Orleans cuisine, I ordered our meals and an appetizer of alligator and crawfish. Being from South Dakota, I assumed that an appetizer was a couple of bites of each. But this is New Orleans, known as the unhealthiest city in the nation. They serve huge portions. The alligator and crawfish appetizers consisted of two very large plates of fried chunks of meat (pictured right). When Anna and David got their kids meals, David got a hamburger bigger than a softball and Anna got a plate of chicken strips on a mountain of fries. This meal was one of our most memorable experiences on the trip.
That’s what meals do. They build memories. They unite people. They build new friendships and deepen old ones.
Tim Chester in his book A Meal with Jesus, explains that meals can also build the kingdom of God. He writes:
If you routinely share meals and you have a passion for Jesus, then you’ll be doing mission. It’s not that meals save people. People are saved through the gospel message. But meals will create natural opportunities to share that message in a context that resonates powerfully with what you’re saying. (89)
Meals make friends, and friendship opens the door to talk about Jesus.
Meals also build community in the church. In the book of Acts, we find the early Christians eating together: “They broke bread in their homes, and ate together with glad and sincere hearts . . .”
When we use meals to grow the kingdom, we follow Jesus. Jesus says that He came eating and drinking (Lk. 7:34). He was a real man who ate real food. He used food to make friends. He made friends with sinners. He saved sinners from their sin.
Jesus met people where they were. The Pharisees demanded that people come up to the level of the Pharisees before they accepted them; but Jesus went to them where they were, loved them, and ate with them. That’s what Jesus did for you and me. He met us where we were. From there, He led us to new life, hope, and forgiveness.
We can do the same thing. We can’t save people, but we can represent Jesus to the world. We can do this by accepting people like He did and eating with them. Then, we can point them to Jesus as the way to new life and hope for heaven.
I encourage you to be strategic about your meals. Use them to build your family and friendships, but use them also to build the kingdom. Invite someone out to lunch this week who needs love. Most people will accept the offer for a free lunch. Then, you can let the Holy Spirit lead you as you talk together over a delicious meal.