A number of recent studies have confirmed what we've intuitively understood all along: Eating with others keeps us healthier, happier, and better connected to each other. Even so, shared meals—especially ones at home—have been on the decline for some time. Busy parents find it hard to gather everyone around the table, much less have people over for dinner. Take-out and drive-through are a part of many Americans' routines. And let's face it: Having people over can be a pain. It's hard to get the house cleaned up and prepare several courses and spend hours eating and chatting and face a mountain of dirty dishes at the end of the evening. If there are children involved, things are that much messier; you face the prospect of pickiness, stains on the carpet, and people who scream or tell bathroom jokes at the table.

There is an element of vulnerability in all this: we may feel that we are on display, that we will be judged by our guests and found wanting, that our cooking may come out badly or our family will embarrass us. Having people over for dinner is intimate, more intimate than most restaurant meals ever can be. Maybe that's why we don't do it that much. But maybe, also, that's why we should do it. Recently, blogger David Swanson suggested that meals with friends at home, rather than in a restaurant, can be a sign of "our confidence in a hospitable God," as meals out avoid the sometimes-complicated and uncomfortable roles of host and guest.

And, writes pastor Tim Chester in A Meal With Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table(Crossway), the early church didn't just have meals along with their worship services; their worship services were meals. Throughout the Gospels (Luke's gospel particularly), ...

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