I was reading an interesting article on Christianity Today by Kyle Idleman, The Bible Has a Clear and Consistent ‘Party Theology’, on how he believes God wants Christians to start throwing parties. Real parties where we invite people to our homes. Have a meal, and even gasp, a bit of wine.
Idleman points to an interesting thing that happened after Jesus invited Levi, otherwise known as Matthew, the tax collector, to follow Him.
The first thing that Matthew did after he agreed to follow Christ was to hold a big party at his house, where he invited his fellow tax collectors and other sinners (Luke 5:29).
Matthew even invited Jesus, and we know this from the reaction of the Pharisees, who accused Jesus of eating and drinking with “tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 5:30).
The tax collectors were looked upon as traitors since they had aligned themselves with Rome, but the sinners were a different class. The Greek word ‘harmartema’ refers to people who had missed the mark or wandered off God’s path. Some suggest that these would have been backslidden Jews, perhaps even the odd gentile.
Undoubtedly, Matthew wanted his group of friends to meet the Lord.
The party clearly rankled the Pharisees, but Jesus responded that he hadn’t come for the healthy, but the sick.
When the prodigal son returned, his father threw a celebration, a party where he invited friends and neighbors to celebrate his son’s return (Luke 15:23-24).
In the book of Acts, the early church met regularly in people’s homes.
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47 ESV)
A big feature of these meetings included having a meal together, as indicated by the phrase “received their food with glad and generous hearts.” They were having fun and these were often combined with times of prayer, Bible studies, and even communion (breaking of bread).
But eating was a vital part of these gatherings, where they undoubtedly invited those who were curious about Jesus, and as they did this, God added to their numbers daily.
At the first communion, where Christ and the disciples broke bread, we read that it was actually preceded by a meal (Matthew 26:26).
This became common practice in the early church, where they would gather together to eat and drink prior to holding communion, which became known as ‘love (agape) feasts’ (Jude verses 11-12).
In his letter, Jude was criticizing the blemishes (false teachers) who were infiltrating these love feasts. The Apostle Paul was also critical of some practices taking place at these meals (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).
But despite their problems, eating together was an important part of the early church’s fellowship. We are told in Acts 20:11, that after Paul had a meal and communion with the believers at Troas, they ‘talked for a long while’ (literally most of the night).
Fellowship was important, and eating together was a vital part of this fellowship.
While, we have tended to veer away from ‘love feasts’ in our modern churches, it may be time for believers to consider holding smaller parties in their homes, where we invite believers and non-believers alike over for a meal.
It doesn’t have to be elaborate, and could simply involve a pot of chili.
Having a party might God’s remedy to a digital age where Facebook has redefined fellowship and what it means to be a friend.