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    Happiness is ... eating together 

    Researchers have discovered the secret of happiness.  Well, that is an exaggeration of course, but it is is true that a recent study has shown what many sensible people who read the scriptures have known all along.  Eating with others and cultivating friendships are important if we are to live healthy lives.  

    Further, the healthiest relationships are where people love us despite the bad things they know about us: one academic psychologist wrote “People forget that love is about loving you for the difficult things, not the easy things.”

    A recent Guardian article highlights these important facts:
    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/may/23/the-friend-effect-why-the-secret-of-health-and-happiness-is-surprisingly-simple 
    The message is simply that if we want to be contented we need to build friendships with people.

    We are created in God’s image and God Himself is a beautifully close network of relationships - one God in three Persons.  So it is natural that human beings should be designed for close friendship.  And it is no surprise that psychologists and other researchers are discovering the fact.

    Friendship is at the heart of the gospel.  God wants all people to be reconciled to Him - in fact God has done all that is necessary for us to be reconciled and has given us Christians the ministry of calling others to be friends of God like we are: 2 Cor 5:18-21 .  It cost Jesus his life on the Cross to achieve this: Col 1:20.  When friends learn to be together and love each other even when times are difficult, they experience something of what God is like.

    So how do we build friendships?  It seems hard in our individualistic society and smartphones can make it easier or harder.  Social media can make it easier to make arrangements and to share in others’ lives.  Yet the more people ‘connect’ through social media, it seems the greater the angst people generally suffer … not enough ‘likes’ to feel secure in an online community … no time for a normal conversation face to face! 

    Building friendships means someone has to take a little bit of initiative - making an invitation, being open, sharing something of their hopes and feelings.  It can seem a risk.

    But let’s get back to basics.  Whether smartphones help or hinder, one thing is absolutely guaranteed to build friendship.  Eating together.

    Look at the gospels and see how often the action takes place around a meal.  Jesus’ would even draw in the people others did not want to be friends with, particularly by eating together.   Normally in that culture you would only eat with family and close friends.  But Jesus upset the religious leaders by eating with notorious sinners and political enemies, because He was so motivated to make friends with all who would respond to His love.

    So why not take a very slight risk and invite someone to share a meal?  It can be very ordinary but “Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.” (Prov 15:17)  The worst that can happen is they decline and you invite someone else - the best is deepening friendship and sharing God’s love, with leads to true happiness! 

    Chris Horton, 29/05/2018