There is an old cereal commercial that begins by panning across a field of tall stalks of golden wheat. The viewers then see an image of a large family house and an intimate group of people running through the wheat fields to the home. Before the commercial ends, the narrator reminds us, “If you feed them, they will come.”
I have thought about this commercial many times. As I survey the Gospels, I am constantly reminded of the various ways that Jesus shared food, broke bread and simply was hospitable to those in need of compassion and companionship. This is the mark of Christianity. Indeed, this is what it looks like to make disciples of Jesus. You welcome people to a table, to be present with you and the Father. You break bread together, and you eat the Word of God.
Our suffering servant Jesus goes beyond the miraculous work of feeding the 4,000 and the 5,000, plus more of their companions. Yes, he can create something out of nothing. Yes, he can fill us until we are all satisfied. And yes, there can still be so much more left to give.
Ultimately, the most valuable thing that he breaks and offers is himself. “This is my body, eat it. This is my blood, drink it. You must do this as often as you will in remembrance of me.” Remembering this God and his life sacrifice is what we do in community with others who are hungry, thirsty and desperate for the One who continues to offer us new life.
Come hungry. Come thirsty. That is the invitation of the table fellowship and this gift of hospitality, this gift of offering physical and spiritual food to those who are desperate and seeking, lost and lonely, hungry and thirsty, and without hope in the world is what we do as kingdom citizens of God.
It is not what takes place in the four walls of a building on Sunday morning that is paramount. That act of worship is a refueling station, perhaps a place of encouragement and equipping. But where Christ shows up in the world is when ordinary people like you and me open our hearts and homes to invite others to our tables for fellowship.
This gift of inviting strangers to sit and eat may be foreign to us. We may overthink it, excuse ourselves from the responsibility or incorrectly conclude that we can’t get it “right.” Yet, Jesus reminds us of the first step: See them as sheep without a shepherd and have compassion on them. Then follow our Savior, who has modeled the way, by sacrificially offering ourselves to others and bringing them—in prayer, word and deed—before the One who will give them streams of living water that will never run dry and feed them until they are full.
The gift of hospitality is not a gendered gift. It is a Jesus-gift. “If you feed them, they will come.”
Natasha Sistrunk Robinson is the visionary founder of Leadership LINKS Inc. and is the author of Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose Through Intentional Discipleship.