Table Fellowship from Food Theology

(An Excerpt from my seminary paper called Food Theology)

(From a section addressing normative principles in the Bible regarding how we eat)

The Bible also stresses the importance of fellowship which was primarily in the context of sharing meals. In one example of endangered table fellowship, Paul confronted Peter in Galatians 2:11-14 about Peter’s not eating with Gentiles (Chester 2011, 52). Peter’s separation at mealtime from the Gentiles created division in the Church which Paul knew God did not approve. All meals played a part in fellowship due to their significant bonding people together in friendship and mutual obligation (Achtemeier 1985, 616-617). In the New Testament, Jesus’ table fellowship thus symbolized blessing and joyous fellowship in God’s presence (Achtemeier 1985, 616). Table fellowship could not be sacrificed without harming the message of the gospel.

A Biblical emphasis on hospitality further emphasizes the significance of table fellowship. “An integral part of Jewish law had always been to show hospitality for the sojourner, stranger, or alien” (Deuteronomy 10:19) (Soza 2009, 69). The hospitality of Isaac was an expression of friendship and peace in Genesis 26:28-30 towards Abimilech. Such hospitality continued in the New Testament for Christians as can be seen in several verses. In Luke 11:8, Jesus could tell the parable of the late night request for bread because his listeners recognized the import of hospitality. Romans 12:13 commands physical contribution to the needs of the saints. I Peter 4:9 commands “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling”. In I Timothy 5:10, a requirement for a widow to receive support from the church was that she had shown hospitality. Hebrew 13:2 reiterates the importance of hospitality to strangers even intimating that some have entertained angels in such situations (Chester 2011, 89). Some would say that New Testament mission was built around table fellowship.

Such an emphasis on fellowship and hospitality also meant that Christians were urged to sometimes place fellowship over individual rights. In Romans 14:4-15:7 and I Corinthians 8:9 Paul urged the strong to be patient with the weak in the context of food (Soza 2009, 77). Romans 14:7 specifically declares, “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself”. Paul also admonishes the Corinthians in chapter 11 of I Corinthians when their communion effectively excluded the poor and focused more on self-fulfillment than love of God or love of neighbor. The Lords Supper was and still is a proclamation of unity (Soza 2009, 92). The early church exemplified this in Acts 2:46 as they broke bread daily together. Obviously their eating and their fellowship were practically one and the same.

(How we “eat” reflects our relationships with God and others)

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