The Fellowship of the Believers
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe or fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
A meal can be many things. For countless around the world, a meal is a genuine problem to be solved, a means of survival. For others, it’s an interruption of more pressing matters, like deadlines at work or weekday basketball practices. For still others, a meal is a source of fear, guilt, or shame, as each calorie and ingredient is scrutinized and judged. We build relationships through meals, conduct business, celebrate, indulge, escape, and ache for those who are no longer with us.
Eating and drinking is one of the master images in the Bible. Those images include the range of our own experiences with food, both good and difficult, but ultimately center on eating and drinking as a means of God’s grace to us. From the daily miracle of manna in the wilderness to Jesus dining with tax collectors and sinners, meals are opportunities to see, taste, and feel God’s unmerited favor, His Kingdom come. Through eating and drinking, God teaches us how to rest more fully in Him.
Thus, Luke tells us, the early church devoted themselves to this ordinary routine of breaking bread together, believing that in doing so they were enacting and extending the very Kingdom of God. Jesus was their example. For on the night He was betrayed, at the annual Jewish Passover, Jesus chose a meal to disclose the truth of who He was and why He had come. The breaking of the bread was His body broken for His followers. The cup of wine was His blood poured out for sinners. Though every meal in the early church was not what we now call “the Lord’s Supper,” it was the story of the Supper that shaped their habits of eating and drinking together on other occasions. Jesus had also made himself known to confused, disheartened disciples on the road to Emmaus “in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35). So, the early church believed, as they struggled to know Jesus more in their own confusing times, Jesus was with them and in them when they gathered together to eat and drink.
What about for us today? We would do well to let the devotion of the early church challenge our own eating habits. Do we see eating and drinking as occasions to give thanks to God for His daily provision, to bow before Him with glad and generous hearts? Are at least some our meals deep sources of communion with those whom God has called us to love? Can we imagine Jesus’ presence with us around our tables? Has the way in which Jesus has hosted us, in the giving of Himself freely to sinners, shaped our own views of hospitality? Are we willing to host those not of our tribes, to serve those from whom we expect nothing in return? And, by expansion, if the Gospel can so reframe and sanctify the ordinary act of eating and drinking, are we willing to consider how grace can reshape all of life for God’s Kingdom?
It is said that Adam lost the whole world in one bite of fruit. In a meal, Jesus regained that same lost world, in His life given for us. May you sense His grace in your meals, and in all you do.