In many ways this bar/coffee shop parallels the church. It’s amazing to observe people, unchurched people, and it becomes obvious that all humans, Christian or not, have many of the same basic needs and desires. For example, deep with in each human heart is a desire for community. I work here week after week, and the same people keep coming back. There are plenty of bars around the Marion area, and yet they keep returning, knowing that they will see friends and familiar faces when they walk in the door. People have begun to have nicknames, and I could tell you what most of them will order before they speak. I know their names (is the Cheers theme song running through your head too??), and have even begun to build real friendships with a few of them. It’s funny how we have taken the idea of community and made it a Christian thing. We talk about it in our churches and at school, and often we achieve it. But it’s not a Christian thing; it’s a human thing woven deep into the hearts of every human being crafted in the image of the Creator—who was, of course, the first to desire communion with us.
The early church spent time together eating and drinking. They called these “agape feasts” or “love feasts,” and it was a time for community and making sure the needs of the people were met. Now, I don’t want to sound sacrilegious, but something similar happens in this bar each week as well. There’s just something special that can happen when people share food and drink together. People learn to laugh and love. They find common ground and share life stories. They relax and think. They have fun, and when the night is over, the shared experience is a memory to look back on that helps lay a foundation for friendship and relationship that will continue to build into the future.
I believe that something spiritual and real happens when Christians share communion. I don’t want to minimize what God does when His people come together in remembrance of Christ. But in a way, the parallels reveal my point: humans are a lot alike, whether they realize it or not—whether we like it or not. We are wired in a way that drives us, and we will meet those needs in one way or another. So whether we fulfill the need for relationship and community in a bar, in a church, or in some other venue, our hearts will cry for it because it is a part of us. We were created in the image of a God who, from day one, has pursued us relentlessly, giving grace and His Son so that He could reestablish a real and whole relationship with His people. He wants us to know Him, and thus, we long to be known. We spend our lives aching for someone to love us and know the deepest intimate parts of us, and in the end, we hurt those closest to us because we want them to do what only God can do.
Maybe that’s why Jesus hung out with people the religious saw as sinners. Maybe He recognized that they would pursue the fulfillment of that need, and He wanted to be there to redirect them to a community and a God that was healing and redeeming and ultimately transforming. Maybe that’s the call on our lives as well. Maybe that’s the heart of the Great Commission. Maybe it's the fulfillment of the Great Commandment.
"Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practices of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day, right up to the end of the age" (Matt 28:19-20--The Message)
"The first [commandment] in importance is, 'Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one, so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.' And here is the second: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' There is no other commandment that ranks with these" (Mark 12:30-31--The Message)