At the core of the Old Testament is what theologians call the biblical covenant. In other words, it’s a relationship, fellowship time, or… chill-time, or hanging out. It’s in the foundation of every sanctuary offering, every patriarch’s command, and every prophetic utterance. In turn, the core of the New Testament is the fulfillment of this covenant, found in the ultimate divine-human form of fellowship: the incarnation of Jesus Christ—God who became human to “dwell” with us.
Whether in a small or monumental way, the gift of fellowship is one of the most manifested representations of the Gospel message: the ability to fellowship between strangers. This is not a normal friendship between two good old friends. Rather, it is an expression that strangers, two individuals whose relationship had never existed or has been broken, can be united.
One of the most interesting ways bonds between strangers can be created is through the medium of food. Combined with warm fellowship, food turns into the virtue of hospitality. Ironically, it was also through this same medium that humanity rebelled against God. But ultimately, it is through this medium that we are reunited. The offerings of Leviticus intimate a meal between the priest, the sinner, and God. Our Lord Jesus Himself ate with so many sinners that His enemies thought of Him as a glutton and drunkard (Matt. 11:19). It was He that instituted the Communion service (the Last Supper), essentially uniting Him and sinner together. This was to continue until His return at the Second Coming (1 Cor. 11:24–26). The church of Acts was one that continually ate together (Acts 2:42–47). Lastly, the final book of the Bible, Revelation, ends earth’s history with a meal (Rev. 3:20).
Hospitable fellowship occurs at a time where there is no rush to finish eating. This was a time when people can get to know each other beyond faces (“the guy with balding hair and cool glasses”), beyond names (“what’s-her-name’s mom’s neighbor”), and beyond subconscious categorizations (“that Asian Republican girl”). This was a time of experiencing unity and togetherness—experiencing the same food simultaneously. In essence, it is a precursor to the fellowship of heaven. In doing so, one may even entertain angels unaware (Heb. 13:2).
Some of the best people to invite over your home are international students. Students always look forward to home-cooked meals, let alone a holiday one! But of the holidays, giving thanks is a universally neutral “safe” holiday. With the cold winters setting in, having a warm place to stay during the Thanksgiving break will be treasured beyond their collegiate years. Here are some practical tips regarding inviting international students:
Be clear about the date (yes, even Thanksgiving), time, address, contact, and ride information. Different cultures have different understandings about time and appointments. Also, be upfront about rides—some students may decline or feel shy to ask because of transportation needs.
Allow guests to cook, clean, and help serve—only if they want to! Sometimes this breaks the ice and helps them feel like part of the family, rather than being sequestered in a distant sofa somewhere.
Make an effort to know their names, however exotic it may be!
Understand that American customs of etiquette are not universal.
Offer grace of the beginning of the Thanksgiving meal, with a short and simple explanation if need be. This is a great segue into a spiritual theme later on in the meal.
Seek the furtherance of this friendship after Thanksgiving as well.
Ministry on university campuses have heard numerous stories of international students who were touched and relieved when invited to American homes during Thanksgiving. Some have even resulted in being introduced to Jesus Christ and baptized as His followers. They, in turn, return home to their respective lands to continue to share their relationship regarding the Biblical Jesus Christ there. Through a short meal, the world can be changed, one invitation at a time. This is the gospel in action.
“He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Deut. 10:18