Preparing a Table of Kindness This Holiday Season
Being a bit of a dish maven, I absolutely love a beautifully set table. I could spend hours making a table look like something straight out of the “tablescaping” contests when the mood strikes, but time constraints keep me from going completely table décor hog wild most days. My friend says I may have a “dish disease.” I fancy, however, to call them my “ministry tools.” Call it what you will. I just know I often tell my friends I am wondering if my job in heaven will be to set the banquet tables with the Lord’s dishes!
Truth be known, it is the time that is spent around the table with loved ones visiting the hours away I cherish most. Laughing, sharing, and partaking in God’s provision brings delight to my soul. The time around the table with others can be precious. Sure, it can be uneasy as well. We’ve all had those awkward moments of disagreements and perplexing relationships that are part and parcel with holiday gatherings. Aside from the unique dynamics each opportunity brings, there is one aspect we tend to overlook, and it is setting our hearts on the eternal at the table. The table is the perfect place for the kindness that has been extended to us by Christ to be lavished upon others.
Living in this broken world means we don’t have to look terribly hard outside of the four walls of our own sin-filled haven to discover someone who can be the recipient of kindness at our tables as we approach this holiday season. Personally, living far from all of our family has given us countless opportunities to share our table with those outside our bloodline. I can think of missionaries from lands afar who gathered around my junk store Duncan Phyfe table sharing their heart for the Lord and their ministry within ear and heartshot of my now grown littles. I can recall occasions where the gospel was shared and received over a simple dump cake. These times are priceless because it is not the dishes or décor on display, but the Everlasting.
Christ’s Guest List
Jesus was often found at tables with sinners. He didn’t invite them into His own earthly home, and we see why in Luke 9:58. Instead, He chose to use the homes and tables of others to work against the grain of the culture and show His eternal kindness. He used the tables of Pharisees, tax collectors, and numerous women to name a few to teach us valuable lessons this exceptional kindness. Zaccheus had to climb down from a tree to let Jesus in his front door. Christ came under harsh scrutiny for healing on the Sabbath when dining at the Pharisees’ table (Luke 14:1-6). Alas, he observed a frantic heart when he made his way into Martha’s kitchen (Luke 10:38-42). And His last earthly supper was spent in an upper room with the twelve, including Judas, His betrayer, as well as the others who bailed on Him at the cross. He chose then to use the homes and tables of sinners. People like you and me. Today, Christ is still letting us have a part in the process of displaying the fruit of His kindness abiding in us by telling us whom we should consider for our guest list:
He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. ~Luke 14:12-14
This holiday and everyday, you can be at ease and not cause a kerfuffle over the cuisine and the perfect tablescapes because Jesus tells us in the very next parable of a future dinner where everything is ready now (Luke 14:17). Christ has completed the work most necessary. He has perfectly planned since eternity past and completed the work for salvation, and we simply get to participate in the activities of inviting others as willing servants to this wondrous work. The most hospitable act in history can be displayed and verbally shared at our own tables. If we purpose to keep a gospel mindset regarding those we invite, we can use our dinner tables to share more than a meal. We can share Christ leaving his earthly home to die for our sins so we could receive a heavenly home.
This displays a kindness that we, too, should be willing to open our hearts towards. This extent of kindness may involve pain, inconvenience, and even rejection. But placing these possibilities before our kind God will enable us to focus on the outstanding picture of His glory. Praise God we can rest easy when it comes to the particulars as God has already lovingly ordained the most important detail of all details - the salvation of many.
We. Simply. Invite.
Kindness Takes Place Long Before the Extra Place Setting
It begins with a transformed heart.
At salvation, God opened the doors of the hearts of those who were formerly His enemy, welcoming us to partake of His kindness. This allows us to show the same kindness towards others.
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit ~Titus 3:4-5
…the kindness of God leads you to repentance. ~Romans 2:4
Table for Who
Oh, that we would have hearts like David who actively looked for the family of his enemy, Saul, to show kindness to! He took in crippled Mephibosheth, the grandson of his enemy, Saul, and the son of his friend, Jonathan, to eat at the King’s table regularly.
Then David said, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” ~2 Samuel 9:1
What a beautiful picture of salvation and eternity built around a heart of kindness for this magnificent future table. We are the undeserving Mephibosheths who have been shown an eternal kindness and will dine with our Lord and Savior forever.
The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine. ~Isaiah 25:6
Are you using your own table on a regular basis with a motive and desire that Christ’s banquet table may someday be filled? We don’t know who the “many” are (Luke 14: 16), who have been invited, we are just called to show this beautiful kindness towards all.
It is this type of kindness, then, we are graciously allowed to bestow upon others for the sake of their eternal destination. We had no claim to this gift of kindness as enemies of Christ, but it was freely given to us because God and His Son are intrinsically kind. We have the privilege to show this kindness that flows from agape love because it is what is best for those who are as we once were - enemies of God.
A Heart Purposed in Kindness
A transformed heart will be purposeful in kindness as it is a heart being led by the spirit and not by the flesh. It will be a heart that takes risks showing kindness by speaking truth to those who don’t know about the banquet table of Christ.
When this type of kindness is bound around our necks and hearts (Proverbs 3:3) we are shutting out a most wicked selfishness, which shows no concern for the spiritual well being of others. That sort of selfishness is perfectly content to continually feast on the kindness of our God and never share a morsel of this transforming kindness with others.
Praise God you have tasted the kindness of the Lord today (1 Peter 2:3).
Ask yourself how you can use your holiday table this season to display this radical type of kindness to those needing to taste what you have been feasting upon and will feast upon for all eternity. Let us open our mouths not only to fill them with temporal food but to speak of the Bread of Life.