Table Manners

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tmthumbBBC is a family. For most of us that is a statement of the obvious. There is love and a caring attitude in BBC that is almost tangible. It is a reality that I, for one, do not take for granted. “We are Family” was sung by Sister Sledge, but brothers and sisters of BBC have a true right to this song.

One of the things that families do is to eat, and generally they do it together. As we have been learning in Leviticus, eating is a big deal in the Bible. Eating together was often part and parcel of warring factions covenanting to reconcile; eating was included as a part of sealing other covenants; and eating was a means of celebration and communion between friends. Meal time, in other words, was special.

BBC often eats together. We have the Lord’s Supper at least three times per month; many of our families get together for meals; Grace Groups usually have plates of eats; and we have special meals together as a church such as breakfasts and special dinners. To top it off, we often have special teas on a given Sunday night to celebrate something special in the life of our family of faith. All of these are great times to feast with the family.

Quite some time ago I was asked by someone to write an article about how believers should behave when it comes to such festive opportunities. After giving it some thought I offer the following.

It would seem from 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 that, whenever the early church came together, they celebrated the Lord’s Supper (this is one reason why we are doing so more frequently), and that a church-wide meal was in some way connected to this. Whether it was before or after the sharing of Communion we have no way of telling for sure; nevertheless, there seems to have been a potluck meal shared.

Of course, in the church at Corinth this meal became a scene of sin, for the Spirit was disregarded and thus the spirits were irresponsibly imbibed and selfish gluttony was not checked. The result was that some became drunk while others selfishly gorged themselves to the point that others went away hungry (but at least sober!).

If such behaviour occurred before the sharing of the elements, then Communion was a perverse disregard of the body and blood of the Lord. If this sinful behaviour followed the Lord’s Supper, then obviously the observance of this prescribed rite was hypocritical pretence. No wonder that there were many who were chastened by God with sickness and some even with death (v. 30)! They were making a mockery of the atoning work of Jesus Christ and thus mistreating those for whom He died: His body, the church.

It is within this context that Paul wrote to straighten things out. He wrote, quite literally, to sort out their table manners. And what he said to them has relevant application to BBC.

When we gather for our “love feast,” we ought to do so with due consideration to both Christ and His church. We need to put others first as a practical recognition of Christ as our Saviour and Lord. This means that we will think about others’ stomachs before our own—regardless of how loud they may be growling! We will want to think of those who rarely have access to such treats and not begrudge them the blessing of partaking in such a feast. We will want to think about those who are at the end of the queue (and, in fact, we will probably be willing to position ourselves to be at the end of the queue). I don’t anticipate drunkenness being too much of a temptation, since our beverages are generally of a tamer nature (!), and yet we will want to be thoughtful to bring both beverages and foods that others will enjoy.

On another note, such love feasts are wonderful opportunities to teach our children “table manners.” Remind them that this will probably not be last meal that they will ever be served and that they too need to consider others. They should be instructed not to go back for seconds until everyone has been served. In other words, teach them to serve.

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