Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 104

FOOD, CULTURE, AND THE ACT OF EATING - Nokar Food as a Symbol of God’s Joy and Hospitality In light of the importance of food in Chuukese culture, the following are some thoughts on what a Chuukese Christian might see as he looks within the pages of the Bible3 to the One who created food. We begin by looking to Jesus Christ, who, according to the Gospel of John, is the Son of God through whom all things (including food) were made and is the One who tabernacled among us. That the Son of God, by his own pleasure and will, would humble himself even to the extent of becoming one of us, namely, by becoming a man and sharing meals with us reveals God’s open heart toward us. That he would desire to partake of food with humanity (that is, that he would willingly make himself vulnerable either to be broken or to be overjoyed by his relationship with us) demonstrates Jesus’s humility and love toward humankind. It is of great interest to note that while Jesus—the Son of God—practiced the act of eating in such a way that is in keeping with our Chuukese culture, he took this understanding further. He gave it its fuller meaning. Jesus demonstrated that this act of eating as vulnerability, trust, and humility should be in its perfect form. Whereas a Chuukese person would eat only with those he can trust and those he believes would be able to enrich him, Jesus ate with humankind knowing that they had nothing to offer him. Jesus partook of food even with the ones that he knew would betray him and deny him three times (or more). Jesus did not show partiality. His life of humility and love is extended to all and this is clearly demonstrated in the fact that he ate with us. As Christians, so often we like to be called servants and followers of Christ. Yet, we tend to practice Christ’s humility and extend his love to others on our own terms. It is often the case that we fail to humble ourselves and extend Christ’s love to others in something as simple as the act of eating food. Unlike Christ, we prefer to eat only with those who are like us and those that we believe have something to offer that might enrich us. We do not dare to eat with and become vulnerable—embodying Christ’s love and humility—toward those that we believe have nothing to offer us and those that we think will take away from us. Our Lord Jesus Christ made himself vulnerable as he humbly reached out to us in unconditional love through the act of eating (e.g., Lk 14–15, 22:14–23; Rv 3:20). As followers of Christ who partake with Christ and of Christ, we are called to be witnesses to Christ’s love even in our act of eating. Until we allow ourselves to be open and 3. All Scripture quotations in this essay are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV). 101