Yesterday, Steve Beeman spoke in our morning services. He did an excellent job of describing the purpose and mission of the Church. He pointed out that Jesus ministered to Jewish people living in a very Greek culture. So Jesus used certain elements of both cultures to teach and model what would become the New Testament church to his followers.
For example, Jesus often taught in the Jewish Synagogues and over meals with his followers.
In the Greek culture meals were incredibly important events and the most important of these was known as a Symposia. During the life of Jesus, a Greek Symposia was a formal banquet that was followed by drinking and discussion. These meals were highly exclusive and only those within your own social status/network would be invited to attend.
Jesus took these meals and turned them upside down. His meals were always inclusive, socially inviting and completely without hierarchal standing. He told his followers not to invite the people who could repay them but rather to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind (Luke 14:7 – 14).
This method would continue into the New Testament church. In Acts 2:46 we read that the believers gathered day-by-day “attending the temple and breaking bread in their homes.”
Later we see Paul’s missionary Journey’s also followed this pattern – when he arrived at a new city he would teach first at the synagogue and then house to house or other public venues.
As time went on, more and more Jews were kicked out of the Synagogues to worship in homes and more and more Gentiles would join them. This involved eating together which caused quite a stir (Galatians 2:11 – 14).
But this was no longer a Jewish church; it was a church for all the nations. In this church there would no longer be Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female (Galatians 3:27 – 29).
This is probably why Paul’s short letter to Philemon was included in the canon. Paul was appealing to his friend Philemon to take status away and accept his slave Onesimus as his brother-in-Christ. Tradition tells us that Philemon obeyed and Onesimus went on to become a bishop in the early church!
Steve challenged us to find someone who looks, thinks, or acts different than us. Someone in another social or economic status and simply get to know them – maybe over a meal!