About a week ago, a fellow brother in the church community that I am a part of was sharing with me how his day to day life has changed since he began this journey into organic New Testament church life. The religious activities that he was once heavily engaged in have been replaced by something else.
This change has prompted the concern of some of his religious friends. He has been fielding a lot of questions that sound something like this:
So, what is it that you have been doing recently? What is filling up your time these days?
His reply has dumbfounded them.
I’ve been eating a lot of meals with people recently.
Although he is typically not a mind reader, their unimpressed stares to this reply leave little doubt about what they are thinking. My friend went on to tell me that he understands why they are so unimpressed with his reply. Several months ago, he was living in their world that quantifies everything through the grid of ‘doing’ good things for God. Good things like feeding the poor, fasting, prayer meetings, bible studies, evangelism, etc…
Now, a lot of those external things have been replaced by spending more time being built together in community with others and eating meals with them. To the religious community that quantifies their relationship with God with the amount of time spent ‘doing’ good things for God, this is cause for great concern. Their thought is that my friend is wasting his time and his life. They are concerned that he is abandoning his faith. In reality, however, the exact opposite is happening!
This same scenario played out two thousand years ago with Jesus as well. Jesus had a couple of pretty slanderous labels slapped on him. He was being called by some to be a ‘glutton’ and a ‘drunk’. Consider this stunning passage in which Jesus opens up and shares how He is being attacked:
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!…(Matthew 11:19, NASB)
There is a lot behind this statement made about Jesus. Why would someone say this? Were the people making this assertion just making up blind accusations to throw at Jesus? I don’t think so. I am convinced that the people making this accusation actually believed that Jesus was simply some false teacher who was really just a glutton and a drunk.
We all look at the world through a set of ‘lenses’. In mankind’s religious system, everything is seen through the lens of ‘doing’. The religious community in Jesus’ day was certainly no exception. Doing the ‘works’ of God meant one thing to the religious community, and something quite different to Jesus. To Jesus, the ‘work’ of God was expressing the life of His Father through fellowship. Fellowship is a state of being, a way of life.
Jesus lived in continual fellowship with His Father. He lived by His Father’s life. Jesus also lived in fellowship with a specific group of people that was given to Him. Fellowship was not something that Jesus had to do, it was simply who he was. Receiving the life of His Father, and passing that life on to others in His community was a natural state of being.
Obviously, the religious community could not see the value in this. After all, if you were busy ‘doing’ the works of God, you would not have the time to regularly eat and drink with other people. If you did have some time to spend with other people, why on earth would you choose to be in community with the likes of Matthew (a tax collector), political zealots, uneducated fishermen, women like Mary Magdalene, or Joanna, etc…? According to the religious community, these were people of unscrupulous associations and of questionable character.
Because Jesus valued something that the religious mindset could not grasp, (fellowship as a state of being), it really did look like Jesus was preoccupied with excessive eating and drinking. In reality, Jesus was not a drunk, nor was He a glutton. The fact is, Jesus ‘ate’ and ‘drank’ of His Father’s life continually.
Since physical eating and drinking are also a large part of human life as well, it was only natural that Jesus would fellowship (exchange life) with others over meals. Jesus valued people. He desired to spend time with them and to share with them the life of the Father that He lived by. Eating and drinking with other people was, and still is, a natural way to commune with others.
Jesus told His disciples (and us) that as He lived by the Father’s life (internal fellowship), so we too would live by His life. This is not just an individual way of life, but a corporate way of life as well. We see this reality played out in the daily house to house gatherings and the love feasts that occurred among the churches described in the New Testament.
Although two thousand years have passed, nothing has really changed. To the world’s religious mindset, fellowship as a state of being still looks like excessiveness (gluttony & drunkenness) and a waste of time. Be encouraged, however. Time is your friend. In the short term, the organizations, the large edifices, and the multi-million dollar humanitarian projects that the religious world is preoccupied with might look impressive. Do not let appearances fool you, however. They will not last.
Only one house will remain through the ages…the house of God! As you know, this house is a Person. Jesus Christ is the one and only house (temple) of God made up of many members. This house is built by communion (state of being) with the Head (Christ) and with the body (people). This ‘building’ with God’s people are the only ‘deeds’ that will remain in the long run. I will leave you with Jesus’ response to those who accused Him of being a ‘glutton & a drunkard’:
…Yet wisdom is (and will be) vindicated by her deeds. (Matthew 11:19, NASB)
For His House,