We have said that this table is to be a model for our tables, but it might occur to some of you that this table is different. For example, we say that this table is for all those who have been baptized and are walking with Jesus, not just anybody. At times, the elders have barred people from this table for refusing to repent of sin, and we pray for those individuals regularly, pleading with God to soften their hearts that they would come back and join us at this table again. That would seem to be different than our home tables. You probably don’t have a list of people who have been excommunicated from your home tables! But while it’s correct to point out that our tables are not synonymous in this regard, they are still analogous.
For one thing, there is an open invitation to this table. If you aren’t baptized, we warmly invite you to trust in Jesus and be baptized and join us. On the flip side, as we give particular energy and emphasis to our calling to be ministering to our neighbors and friends through hospitality, through meals together, following the example of Jesus, we are not just inviting neighbors and friends to eat with us. We are inviting them to Jesus. We are inviting them to be baptized, to repent and believe, and follow Christ.
We don’t need a vague hospitality movement. We don’t need a bunch of Martha’s scurrying around, bothering with lots of food and place settings in some vague way. And sitting around a table with non-Christians isn’t a magical guarantee that anything meaningful has taken place. When Jesus showed up to dinner parties, the first thing to happen was for Him to say or do something awkward, something to press the point. Jesus didn’t go to meals with tax collectors and sinners and Pharisees because He really liked their famous mashed potatoes. Jesus went to those meals to call sinners to repentance, to point out hypocrisy, to tell the truth.
As we seek to imitate Jesus, remember that we’re eating with sinners because we want to see them forgiven. We eat with unbelievers because we want them to be saved. We are friends with the sick because we want to see them healed. That’s why Jesus eats with us, and that’s why we eat with them. So come.