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Kevin Finch

Kevin Finch is director of Big Table, which exists to transform lives by creating community around shared meals for those in the restaurant and hospitality industry and offering practical and personal support to those who are struggling, falling through the cracks, or in transition.

Interview by Jana Wipf

May 2012

It seems like peace, from experience, is about right relationship. The whole idea of wholeness - lived out in relationships, particularly relationships with people who are ‘other.’  It’s easy to be at peace or to pretend things are ok with someone who pretty much agrees with you.  It’s when you find someone whose life is built on a very different premise than yours that the threat of violence is there, whether it’s ever expressed physically or just becomes brokenness.

There’s something about the need to get out of your own frame of reference.  To say, ‘I may disagree with that person      , and we may never see eye to eye on that, but what would their frame of reference be?  How would I relate to them if I understood them?’  I’ve got a guy who would be on Facebook aggressively atheistic, who’s become a great friend, knows I’m a pastor, and to a surprising degree trusts me and respects me because of the relationship we’ve built.

Part of God’s call to me was the passage from Genesis 12, where God calls Abraham. It says, ‘Abraham, I’m blessing you, so that all nations will be blessed.’  It’s this really expansive phrase.  Not God-fearers, not Jews, but everybody gets blessed through you.  It felt like God was saying, ‘your job is to bless people,’ and for me, part of blessing is this sense that real blessing isn’t conditional.  There are no strings attached to it.  So, as much as part of wholeness would be to encounter with Jesus, I don’t feel like it’s my job to force that. 

The goal is to bless people without any conditions on that.  I say, ‘If any of you have questions spiritually, I’d be delighted to talk to you, but if you’ve had a rotten experience with the church, if you’re agnostic, if you’re atheist, you are totally welcome here, because we’re about creating community around this table and caring for people who really need it.’  That’s the right note to hit for reconciliation for folks who have been burned by the church. The only time you can have real reconciliation is if you don’t feel like you’re going to get stabbed in the back the second you turn around.  Safety is a huge thing. Getting to know people where they’re safe rather than inviting people to come where we’re safe.  Then again, that’s the risk in the peacemaking part of this: you have to end up somewhere that’s not your native environment, so that you can connect to people who are comfortable there.  Peace involves going rather than waiting.

There are actual places where people can be in unity without being in opposition.  Interestingly enough, food is often one of those places.  Everyone needs to eat, and it’s harder to demonize someone that you shared a meal with.  If we can eat together there’s a chance we can see this person as another human being, as opposed to an enemy. 

Seek out relationships with people who are not like you. Live peacemaking rather than talk peacemaking because the very folks who most need it are the folks who are going to object to that language.