I’ve been thinking about food a lot lately. I imagine I am not the only one. January hits and we make promises to ourselves that this year is going to be different. We are going to lose the weight. We are going to eat our vegetables. We are going to try Whole 30 or Weight Watchers, or Jenny Craig or low carb, no carb, low fat, high fat, vegetarian, vegan, no refined sugar, cabbage soup only, and on and on and on. One year eggs are bad, the next they are a super food. What exactly is a GMO, and are they actually bad for you or just a different way of growing things?
As I try to make better food choices, I am limited by the fact that I cannot eat wheat. This is frustrating, both for me and for those around me. I get acute headaches and my throat gets itchy and closed up when I eat wheat, so it’s generally very uncomfortable. Now, just because I can’t eat wheat, do I expect those around me to go without? Absolutely not. Wheat won’t harm my spouse, my children, or my coworkers.
Here at FPC, we have a staff meeting every Tuesday, and we love to share treats when we are celebrating one of our colleague’s birthdays. The tradition is that if it is your birthday, you are responsible for bringing birthday treats to share at that week’s staff meeting. I am the only one on staff that has a problem with wheat. I could easily abstain from the birthday treats. (Sadly, but easily). The lovely, gluteny cookies and cakes won’t hurt anyone but me. I would not be offended if I could not partake.
And yet… my incredible colleagues remember me when they are planning their birthday treats. Every birthday we have celebrated since I have been here has included a treat that I could safely eat. This is a relatively minor thing, but it goes so far toward making me feel a part of the team. I so appreciate that they care enough to be sure I am included. Let’s face it, gluten free goodies do not taste as good as the regular ones. Yet, my colleagues are willing to make that sacrifice so that I can partake.
We have a similar philosophy here around the communion table. ALL of our communion bread is gluten free so that all may partake of the common loaf, symbolizing all being part of the same body of Christ. We make participating in that one body as barrier-free as possible.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he addresses a similar situation. Knowing that God had declared all foods clean (Acts 10) and that eating meat that had been sacrificed to the idols of the Corinthian culture could not actually do harm, he still encouraged the Christian community to consider those who were, perhaps, a little weaker in their faith. If one person came to the table uncertain if it was permissible to eat meat sacrificed to idols, then all should abstain. Barriers to Christian fellowship needed to be removed. Paul agreed that those who said that there was no harm in eating meat were right. But it was more important to be loving and hospitable than to be right.
I don’t know about you, but I hate to back off when I know I am right! But what if my need to be right creates a barrier to someone else’s participation in the community of the body of Christ? If we truly believe that Christ welcomes ALL to his table, how can we break down the walls that prevent people from feeling that they have a place? Consider for a moment – with whom does Christ call us to be in fellowship? And if we really believe that Christ makes a place for all of us at the table, who do we need to work harder to welcome?