By Jim Tune
Let’s meet for dinner. I’d be willing to host. Jesus himself said, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking” (Luke 7:34). Eating and drinking a lot. New Testament scholar Robert Karris says, “In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal.” Interesting. What is the Son of Man doing when he comes to earth? The Jews expected him to come with a vengeance, defeating God’s enemies and vindicating his people. Instead he shares a meal.
Meals are a powerful expression of welcome and friendship in every culture. The table companions we invite to join us speak loudly to the authenticity of our faith. Meals are central to the mission of Jesus because they embody and enact the grace of God. Meals still have this power today. Sharing a meal says: I want to know you. I want to share life, community, and fellowship with you.
Recently I participated in a Bible conference hosted by the Christian Restoration Association in Cincinnati. CRA director Lee Mason was kind enough to invite me to share the platform as a main-session speaker. It was an unlikely invitation, by all appearances. I’ve generally been grouped among the “progressives” in our movement. The CRA, on the other hand, is often regarded as ultraconservative, based on its zeal for the principles of our movement and its direct approach to reporting when churches are moving the plumb line away from the settled doctrinal positions our movement upheld for years. To CRA’s credit, its goal is Christian unity. Its sincerity is undeniable. The CRA believes, with our Restoration fathers, that a simple return to the plain teaching of New Testament doctrines will produce a platform upon which all believers can agree.
Time has shown that this approach to unity has been difficult to implement broadly. That said, there is much about the simplicity of our movement that is appealing. Sometimes we’ve done a poor job of explaining our plea winsomely. The CRA has been scathing at times in its criticisms of our larger Christian church institutions and the more progressive voices among us. I have felt a small change in tone would go a long way. Still, I love these guys. They are part of my family! I resonate with their goals in general.
Then there are the progressives among us—a segment of our tribe I generally run with. Unfortunately, the progressives often act dismissively toward our conservative brothers and the institutions they lead. Among the progressives, the CRA, Hillsboro Family Camp attendees, and others are written off as legalistic curmudgeons who just don’t get it.
I spent many pleasant days at the Bible conference. Mason put together an exceptional lineup of speakers. The event was done with excellence. But the best parts were the meals, or around the tables late at night at Graeter’s ice cream shop. These are times when we can know and be known, laugh together, understand and be understood.
Food reminds us of our dependence on other people. The table is where we mark milestones, bury hatchets, divulge dreams, make deals. It’s also where we learn manners, cooperation, communication, self-control, and mutuality.
So, let’s meet for dinner—the progressives, the moderates, and the conservatives. We can talk and eat and drink, and perhaps begin to see one another as family and as persons bearing the image of God. Let’s meet for dinner. I’ll host. Anybody hungry?