Who’s at your table?

Have you ever invited a stranger to dinner? Maybe a passing acquaintance? Do you think you ever would, or does the very idea of inviting a stranger into your house give you the willies and have you reaching for your baseball bat?

I’ve tried it. It worked out nicely. And here’s the story.

I was challenged some time ago to be loyal, and not just in relationships, but in those relationships formed with businesses in my area. Now, I would like to be more loyal to local businesses, and I am whenever possible. But I have been visiting my local Food City Supermarket, which is just a block from my house, for nearly five years now. (I’m honest, I’ll admit that there are a few other grocery stores I frequent for specialty items.) And over those years, I’ve come to recognize the regular employees there. I may not be on a first name basis with them, but apparently I’m known as the “guy with the cool hats.” I’ve been called worse, so I’ll take it.

Anyway, our church was challenged to Pray for One. This means we pray for God to send us one person to show His love to every day. One young man at the Food City, to whom I had been speaking with on a regular basis, became my one to pray for. So, I set out to continue speaking and invite him to church. I did, and the conversation was stilted, almost rehearsed, and didn’t really go anywhere. The seeming failure haunted me for a week.

Then, the questions came to mind, “Would you invite him and his wife to dinner?” I of course was a little unsure, I had never just invited someone I didn’t really know to my house. The question wouldn’t leave me alone: “How does he know he’ll be welcome at your church if he’s not welcome in your home?”

So, that next week, I invited him and his wife to dinner, with my wife’s OK of course. (I have yet to make the mistake of inviting someone over without checking with my wife first and hopefully never will.) He accepted, and looked a little surprised. A week later, he was in my home and we have been friends since.

No, I didn’t make a new convert or baptize anyone, but, really, that isn’t the point of Praying for One. The point is to make a connection, to remind people you know and those you don’t that God is loving and pursuing them as well.

Jesus ate with those he probably didn’t know and wanted to know better. He ate with sinners, the sick, the poor, the outcast, the hated. Jesus understood the power of a meal so much so that he made it a central symbol of his work.

So, I’ll ask the question again: Who’s at your table?

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