Sunday morning after talking about forgiveness and becoming a reconciling community we celebrated the Lord’s Supper. It was a powerful moment full of raw emotions and the Presence of God.
However, it also left some folks with questions as to the connection between forgiveness and Communion.
To this I must apologize for not making the connection clearer on Sunday…hopefully this post will help clear up any questions. (Granted, it could also generate questions…which, if it does, I implore you to ask in the comment field below or you can just email/call me). 🙂
Here is my thought process:
In the first century when you went to the temple to offer a gift at the altar of the Lord, you were coming to met with God and to remember who He was and what He had done for you (i.e. delivered your people, the Israelites, out of Egypt, gave them the promise land and became your God).
Communion has similar overtones as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of what Jesus did for us on the Cross (i.e. delivered us out of darkness, gave us the rest of the promise land and became our God [1 Cor. 11:17-34, book of Hebrews]).
Therefore, when I read Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:23-24 this week, I saw Him telling us to go and be reconciled to those who have anything against us before going and communing with Him. This thought continued to grow when I heard Jesus say that if we do not forgive others, He would not forgive us (Mt 6:15-16). Seeing how Communion is our remembrance of the forgiveness given to us by Jesus on the cross…well, it struck a cord with me Sunday…
I didn’t bring it up Sunday, but Paul says something along these lines in 1 Corinthians 11:27-20:
“So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.”
The “body of Christ” Paul is talking about here is the community of Believers – aka the church. This can be seen by looking at the chapters before and after this passage. Paul is encouraging the church in Corinth to stop getting drunk during communion and hogging all the food (11:18-22) and to start looking after each member of the church as everyone is the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-26).
Seeing this, I tend to read Paul’s words in chapter 11 along the following lines: Before you take communion, examine yourself and make sure you are right before God. Part of being “right before God” is allowing Him to be Lord over every area of your life and letting His forgiveness flow over and through you to others (i.e. Matthew 5 and 6 as referenced above).
Not easy words… they are hard words…hard in that they are hard to follow… I’m just thankful that the Lord gives us His Spirit and strength to walk them out because I could not do so on my own…
This brings us to another question that I think is very important:
What does one do while they are walking through the pain of trying to forgive? Or, to use different words, can a person take communion while still working through un-forgiveness?
Unfortunately, there is no black and white answer to this question as the biblical authors never address it straight out…For me personally; I think the main issue isn’t whether or not we have forgiven everyone or whether or not everyone likes us and has nothing against us. Instead, I think the main issue is what state our heart is in… Have we given everything to Jesus? Are we allowing Him to work on our hearts and purge us of unforgiveness, bitterness, and sin?
I go back to the words of the man who, when asked by Jesus if he believed that Jesus could heal his son, replied: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
I believe…help my unbelief…
Sometimes it is hard to forgive… sometimes the pain is too strong; too close… and I believe that Jesus recognizes that sometimes it takes time to fully forgive. This is why I think Paul said that we are to “examine ourselves” – are we constantly giving ourselves to Jesus? It is a constant battle in which Jesus is walking beside us and helping us through. Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.