If creating a meal for someone with multiple allergies is not an option, create a gathering that doesn’t include a meal. Have a game night and instead of a meal provide some store-bought safe snacks. Things like chips, salsa, and popcorn are usually great for most people with allergies and food disorders. By creating an activity to focus on, people won’t be focused on their food. This will help the guests feel more comfortable and less anxious at your event.
As the holiday season approaches, many of us will share food with friends and family. We will have family over for holiday meals. We will share snacks at church events, parties, and homeschool groups. Everywhere we look we will encounter food. For many of us, food is the most delightful and joyous part of gatherings. What would December be without Christmas cookies and hot chocolate? Our culture, among others, revolves around food and eating together. We look forward to meals together at the table, find enjoyment in the anticipation of what food we will eat, and create traditions that are all centered around food. Practicing hospitality through meals and celebratory food is something observable in the scriptures. It’s not an exaggeration to say that food is an essential part of human life. We are so thankful to be a part of a church that shows hospitality with consideration for those who have food allergies and disorders. But I know that many churches do not show the same consideration.
What about those people for whom food is not a celebratory moment but instead can cause feelings of fear, self-consciousness, and exclusion? How do we handle gatherings for individuals who have different food needs? Partaking in meals together is one form of hospitality that God has shown us we are to partake in together, and yet there is sin in the world that even distorts the good. But what happens when we encounter individuals who have food allergies, sensitivity, neurodivergence, food disorders, and more?
What Does the Bible Say About Eating Together?
The best place to start when asking questions about anything is to open God’s Word. Today we are going to see what the scriptures say about eating together.
Genesis 18:6. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. 3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord,[a] do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”
One of the first instances we see of food and hospitality being offered is in Genesis. Here, Abraham is approached by strangers. His first reaction is to invite them in, give them the best food he can offer, and have a feast. Providing food for others has been ingrained in us as humans. It has been around since the beginning of time.
Matthew 14:19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.
In Matthew, we are shown the example of Jesus feeding people after he spoke. These people refused to go home, and Jesus knowing they would need food, provided that for them. The people all sat on the grass together and feasted. They gave thanks and were appreciative of the food that was provided for them. Eating together must be important since it is seen many times throughout the New Testament. (John 21:9-14, Acts 2:42, Luke 9:16)
The last scripture we are going to look at is Romans 14:1-4.
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.