But if you eat the bread and drink the wine in a way that isn’t worthy of the Lord, you sin against his body and blood. That’s why you must examine the way you eat and drink. If you fail to understand that you are the body of the Lord, you will condemn yourselves by the way you eat and drink. That’s why many of you are sick and weak and why a lot of others have died. If we carefully judge ourselves, we won’t be punished. But when the Lord judges and punishes us, he does it to keep us from being condemned with the rest of the world.
My dear friends, you should wait until everyone gets there before you start eating. If you really are hungry, you can eat at home. Then you won’t condemn yourselves when you meet together.
After I arrive, I will instruct you about the other matters. (Contemporary English Version)
The body. The body and blood of Christ. The Body of Christ. Throughout the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth he employs the full literal and metaphorical understanding of the word “body.”
“Body” is an important word for Paul. He consistently and insistently uses it to convey a message of solidarity, unity, community, and responsibility.
Christ identifies with his people closely. This relationship is so intimate that it is like a head connected to a body. Jesus is committed to the Church.
God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:22-23, CEB)
Believers in Jesus are connected to one another closely. They are vitally linked, like the parts of a body all unified together, acting in concert.
God handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13, MSG)
The Church, believers in God and followers of Christ, are the community of the redeemed. They serve and share together as if they were one body, not many bodies.
Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts. In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink.… For the body itself is not made up of only one part, but of many parts…. As it is, there are many parts but one body. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 20, GNT)
And so, Christians have a responsibility to one another, They must work together as one Body of Christ, paying attention to each other and caring for all the members. There are not to be divisions of special interest groups or a separation of class, ethnicity, race, or gender.
Unfortunately, when the Corinthian Church gathered around the Lord’s Table, their eating and drinking didn’t eliminate barriers but instead maintained and created obstacles between each other.
Paul would have none of that kind of thinking or behavior. He cited it as a reason why many of the individual physical bodies of persons were sick, weak, and even dead. We are holistic people, so whenever there is a spiritual illness in the Body of Christ, it effects the physical bodies of members with sickness.
So, what to do about this malady of both body and soul? Wait for each other. Be patient with one another. Show deep concern for the Body because we are all truly one in Jesus Christ.
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves…. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (Romans 12:10, 16, NIV)
And all of this is rooted in grounded in the body and blood of Jesus. Whenever believers come to the Table, their eating and drinking is meant to be an outward display of the inward reality of our collective redemption.
Christ gave his literal body so that we might be redeemed from old empty ways of living selfishly and independently from other people. He gathered believers together as the Body. The Church is to reflect Christ’s concern for humanity. The Spirit is given, so that together as one people of God, we will be the continuing presence of Jesus to a fragmented world in need of kindness, justice, and deliverance.
As the Lord’s Body, we are to understand our special purpose on this earth – to bless the world by demonstrating a different and better way to live. Proclaiming this good news in both word and deed is what we are about.
If we look, speak, and act no different than everyone else, we will all be lumped together at the end of the age when Christ returns. And it won’t go so well for us.
Yet, I am confident of better things with you and me.
Our coming together at the Lord’s Table needs to be a genuine celebration of redemption. Examining ourselves does not mean unnecessary navel gazing. Because whenever we go trying to find sin inside us, we will never be disappointed. Instead, the examination is to be communal – ensuring there is room at the Table for everyone, and that each person is connected and participating.
In short, we are to love one another, just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us.
Help carry each other’s burdens. In this way you will follow Christ’s teachings. (Galatians 6:2, GW)
May it be so, to the glory of God.
Lord Jesus, who prayed that we might all be one, we pray to you for the unity of Christians, according to your will, according to your means. May your Spirit enable us to experience the suffering caused by division, to see our sin, and to hope beyond all hope. Amen.