In the war for the world, that ancient, yet active campaign to extend the rule of King Jesus to the four corners of the globe so that the glory of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the seas, food is not neutral. Nor is it utilitarian, a simple means of physical sustenance to keep our bodies alive. No, in the battle for the nations, food is a sword and a trowel. Gathering around the table for shared meals is a means of both fighting against principalities and powers and building—or rebuilding—the walls of Christendom.
Feasting is not something to do once the fighting is done. Feasting is fighting. It is a wielding of the sword against the enemies of God who prefer famine to fruitfulness. It is a declaration of abundant life in the face of the one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. A full plate on a full table tells the truth about God: He is the great Giver of life, the Provider of everything we need—and there’s more where that came from. He is not stingy, not with the prime rib and not with his grace. God is lavish. This is a truth that is dangerous to the powers that rule by fear and scarcity.
I recently read Kelly Keller recall a scene from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where the White Witch happens upon a party in the woods where a merry group of Narnians had decorated with holly and were eating “something like plum pudding.” The Witch saw this feast as a treasonous threat. The snow was melting, Aslan was on the move, and the party was evidence that her reign was drawing nigh. Keller connected this scene with a line from another C.S. Lewis book, Mere Christianity:
“Enemy-occupied territory–that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”
Feasting is an act of sabotage against the loneliness, despair, and barrenness of our world. It is an act of war against the lie that this world is meaningless. When we gather to feast with those who love Jesus, we declare the current state of the world will not always be so. No, every enemy of Jesus will be put under His feet, and one day He will return to make all things new. Jesus is on the move.
But what about our everyday eating? If feasting is fighting, what is the ferial? How do family dinners factor into the war for the world? At the feast we wield the sword, but at the kitchen table we bear the trowel. There we rebuild the walls of Christendom. Every meatloaf is a brick, and the mashed potatoes mixed with conversation, prayers, gratitude, and joy make the mortar.
Civilizations are built on Tuesday nights in the winter when the soup is hot and the bread and fellowship are warm; when a father gives thanks to God and to his wife, and to God for his wife; when the kids recite odd facts from their science lesson; when Mom catches Dad up on the day’s events, and Dad tells a few old stories.
But if that sounds too idyllic, civilizations are also built when the baby flings mushed carrots to the wall, while the toddler screams and the oldest two smart off at one another. For the task of the Christian home is the Great Commission in microcosm, and stressful family dinners provide more than enough opportunity to discipline your children and teach them to obey what Jesus has commanded.
Young children will first learn neighbor love at the table because chewing with your mouth closed and saying thank you are, as one writer put it, love in trifles. Children will take dominion over the dishes long before they ever try to conquer anything in the larger world. And with every savory bite from the hand of their loving mother, children will taste and see that the Lord is good.
Family dinners are civilization-building activities, not because they are magical, but because they align with how God made the world. The natural family is the basic building block of society, not the autonomous individual self, as our modern social order demands us to believe. Gathering as a family for dinner affords regular opportunities to honor father and mother, to instruct and engage children, and to enjoy one another’s company. It is no wonder that various studies have linked the regular practice of eating together as a family with many benefits, including higher academic performance, stronger relationships, greater resilience, and lower risks of depression, teen pregnancy, and drug use. The family gathered together is cutting with the grain of God’s good world.
It should not surprise us that God uses such a normal thing as breaking bread to shape a civilization. He uses the weak things of the world to shame the strong, the small things of the world to make the greatest impact. And it is in the bread and cup of the Lord’s Supper—the church family dinner—that God nourishes his people. And it only makes sense that God would bless what He designed.
But we should not think it is the mere fact of eating together that does the trick. No, it is the love around the table that makes the table potent. It is the fellowship, thanksgiving, respect, honor, and laughter that makes our tables dangerous. So, we must fence our tables and our hearts to keep away strife and malice. For better is a dinner of peanut butter and jelly where love is than a ribeye steak and hatred with it.
The walls of our culture are crumbling, and enemies are marching toward the gates. Let us draw up our battle lines and serve our plates. Let us pick up our forks and wage holy war. Let us pause and give thanks for whatever God has put before us and whoever He has put beside us. Let us take up and eat.
The West is dead, long live the West, and please pass the salt.