Feeding the Hungry: Romance vs. Relationship

Part XI of our series on Sharing Your Bread

In our last post, we learned that the Greek word ethrepsamen used in Matthew 25:37 means more than just “feed”.  That impacts the way we should feed, and eat with, the poor and hungry.  A can of chili on a curb, devoid of any conversation about Christ, falls short.

And it’s not that volunteering at the food bank or soup kitchen are bad things to do for the poor.  But those are places to begin, not end.  As Lisa Carlson puts it,  ultimately “we must sit with them at the table, as Christ did.” Here’s Lisa’s story:

This month my husband and I shared meals with a handful of women that are prostituted in our neighborhood. We are grateful that they trust us enough to enter our home.As I reflect on the faces of each woman—one stands out to me the most, and this is the story that I must share: her name is “Rose.”

I met “Rose” on the corner of Aurora and 95th street. When I met her she was practically slumped over onto the fast paced street of Aurora, she could barely keep herself awake. I touched her on the shoulder and she looked at me as if she did not know where she was. She told me that she was in pain and that she had not slept in four days. She went on to tell me that a “john” had busted out all her teeth on a trick a few days ago, so that is what caused the pain. Her teeth were all knocked out and she hobbled as we stepped.

I invited “Rose” to walk with me to my home where she could take a much needed, much deserved nap in a safe place. She agreed and this began our 24 hours together.

“Rose” slept on the couch, and as she slept I prepared a meal of chicken, potatoes, bread and salad. I lit candles and put out our finest plates and napkins. When “Rose” woke up, I invited her to join us at the table. And as we sat together, she asked if she could pray for our dinner. Her prayer was beautiful and yet it held a harsh reality: as she prayed she shared with us that she is 40 years old and that she has been prostituted since age 13 when her dad started feeding her crack. In this prayer she thanked God for a warm and safe place to sleep and then she shared with us and with God that this is the first time that anyone has ever invited her into a home to eat.

My goodness, “Rose” is 40 and has been out in the streets for 27 years and this is the first time she has shared in meal fellowship!

I could not believe my ears.

As she ate, she shared that this was the best meal that she could ever remember having and then later on in the meal as she talked about her love of singing, she bust out into song! “Rose” spent the night at our home that night, and the next day I accompanied her to the methadone clinic and then to lunch at Recovery Café.

Rose received more than chitchat and a can of chili. She was received as Christ’s guest but she was not mistaken for him. The food provided by Lisa and her husband was not a commodity but rather a token and a pledge to withhold no good thing in Christ.

They hosted the meal in their home, not on a curb, because home is where they themselves prefer to eat.

The 24 hours of sharing did not end with Rose returned to the street corner to have sex with more men while Lisa sobbed uncontrollably in her car. Instead, Lisa accompanied Rose to the methadone clinic and then to lunch. Christ hosted the whole encounter and received recognition accordingly.

Romance was set aside in favor of relationship.

We grow to fullness in Christ in the sharing of bread not by handing out more and more cans of chili but rather by sharing Christ’s fellowship around our bread at our own  tables. We regard the meal as the meal of Christ, received from Christ as his provision and returned to Christ as our worship.

One way to grow in our ability to host is to grow in our ability to be a guest. So try this:

    • Head down to the rescue mission. Bring family and friends with you. But don’t go to “feed the homeless.” Instead, go to be fed with them—to eat a meal together side by side.
    • Give a donation privately to the mission to cover the cost. Then find out how it feels to be hosted.
    • Let God teach you from that experience how—and how not—to host others.

As Fritz Eichenberg’s, “Christ of the breadlines” woodcut depicts, the Christ who hosted feasts with borrowed food is most easily and authentically found holding the empty bowl and not the full ladle.

Denying ourselves the position of The Great Provider may be the best fast of all.

How does this change how you think about feeding the hungry.  What should you do differently?  What should your church do differently?

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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