Our local church conducts the Holy Communion every first Sunday of each month. During the preparatory moments of this Christian sacrament, these words, “If you have not accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, please do not partake of the Holy Communion”, are always flashed on the screen. Some people would assume these words are meant as a warning for those who have not uttered the sinner’s prayer such that if they “eateth and drinketh unworthily, [they] eateth and drinketh damnation”.
But we all know that Paul’s warning was for the Christians in Corinth. So, it is Christians that must be warned of this possible “damnation”. While our local church continues to adhere to the essentiality of one’s commitment to Christ for one to partake of the sacraments, we have ceased in screening the “damnation” slide during Communion time.
The Lord’s Supper is best practiced within community. In the societal framework of the Roman Empire where a person’s status is decided by one’s gender, race, education and vocation, Paul calls upon the Christians in Corinth to “wait for one another”. It should not be those with a higher status given priority to partake first or those of lower positions going ahead because they are tired of waiting for the VIPS.
Exclusivity has its place and purpose. When Chui delivered our children, those moments (other than the gynecologist and the midwife nurse) were exclusive to me for not even our parents, siblings or closest of friends were welcomed. I didn’t go about sending invitations for them to come and watch, and adding that they should remember to bring along their snacks and drinks because the whole process might take quite awhile. However, community over the Lord’s Supper has no room for exclusivity. Those supposedly warning words in that PowerPoint slide carried a tone of exclusivity.
It has been said that the late Ruth Graham was unable to remember her conversion moment. Here is the Mrs. of the great evangelist who has invited millions to the front to say the sinner’s prayer, and his other half has no clue to when she had converted. I would imagine Ruth attending a first Sunday worship service at our church, and one of our Communion servers whispering into her ear with these words, “We have heard that you have no recollection of accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior, so please do not partake of the Holy Communion”. I am more than certain that Ruth Graham was more Christian than me, and had the Grahams visited us, it would be my greatest honor to serve her the bread and the cup.
Christians are addicted to exclusivity. We enjoy the security of being saved and others damned. But it is the Christians that Paul reminds that ought to “examine” and “judge” themselves. Exclusivity is such a self-righteous clutter that distorts our understanding of what God truly desires of us. Erik Thoennes wrote Hour of Decision in Christianity Today that “A memorable conversion experience may serve as an important referent to God’s saving
work in one’s life. But the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in making a person more like Jesus is the clearest indicator that one has been made a new creation in Christ.”
[The above is a post migrated from a previous blog]