Eating Together

By Not Known

Eating together is often seen as an sacred act in the Judeo-Christian tradition.  No doubt, Singaporeans (Chinese, Indians, Malays and other races) eat together very often but none takes on the spiritual dimension that echoes the great messianic banquet in Isaiah (Isa 25:6-8).

Take for example a Singaporean of Chinese descent.  He would go to his place at the table, nod his head in acknowledgment to all the other diners there with a polite smile, utter a few pleasantries, eat and then leave the table after saying a polite ”please continue eating at your own leisure.”  This is considered to be correct manners for people who are not supposed to talk too much at the table.  There is nothing sacred in a Chinese get-together! However, when he or she becomes a Christian, eating together assumes a spiritual dimension at table-fellowship.  

Our Lord Jesus often ate with a variety of people.  He was not at all picky about whom He shared His table with. The Gospels show Him sharing meals with Pharisees, scribes, tax collectors and “sinners”, apart from His disciples.  Indeed, during His ministry, Jesus participated regularly in fellowship meals with people belonging to diverse socio-economic and pietistic backgrounds.

For Jesus however, the main thrust of a meal was not food but who was invited to the table.  Jesus welcomed everyone – not just those like Himself.  He never expected reciprocity nor gave much credence to the social strata or hierarchical structures around the table.  

Nevertheless, it is hard to think of eating as a spiritual discipline in secular Singapore today.  This is especially so when we nowadays have to be wary of the extremes of excessive overeating and being obsessed with the current fad of keeping ourselves pencil-slim.  

It is perhaps time for us to spend a little less time with our own over food and take Jesus’ advice seriously to ”invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind”(Lk 14:13) to have meals with us.  The subsequent conversations should also flow from the dining table and turn towards kingdom-minded matters as they did during the ministry of Jesus.  Then the message of the grace, love and the welcome of our Lord will flow in the Spirit − through us − into the hearts of non-believer and believer alike.

Joseph Teng