If we judged ourselves rightly...
1 Corinthians 11:17-32 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. 20 Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, 21 for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.
Many people wonder why the church today does not seem to have the power that the early church did. Many wonder why we lack the healing miracles; why there is so much sickness in the in the church. In today’s text Paul says: Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. There is a lot of attention paid today, both within and outside the church on how the church should not judge and condemn the world, how believers need to be open to, reach out to and embrace the sinner, the outcast and the unlovely. These things are all true. Believers and the church are to be the love of God, to demonstrate the love of Christ to the world. Yet within many churches and certainly between churches and denominations there is division, judgment, criticism and condemnation.
Paul says: But a man must examine himself… if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. Jesus also speaks of judgment among believers. He says: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” The truth is neither Paul nor Jesus say we are not to judge at all. Paul says we are to judge ourselves rightly. Jesus says that before we can help our brother to see clearly we must first remove the log from our own eye. The key according to both is to judge ourselves before we judge others. We need to recognize that, within the church, between believers, the log that affects our ability to see clearly may not be moral sin. Rather it can be our own preconceived ideas, our preferred doctrines and traditions, the religious things we elevate above the cross and the resurrection. One of the most divisive things within the church today is how we view, respond to and walk in the Holy Spirit.
As Christians, as believers, as Christ’s church we are to be a community of believers. The word community itself comes from combining the words common and unity. We are to be joined together, unified in and by what we have in common. What we have in common is Jesus Christ, the cross, the resurrection and the Holy Spirit who dwells in each and every believer. When we are divided over the Spirit rather than unified in the Spirit, we tear down rather than build up the very kingdom we are supposed to represent. Jesus says: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matthew 12:25-28) If we, who represent the kingdom of God to the world, are divided against each other, how can we expect the kingdom to stand in the world? Jesus says: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” How can the church expect the world to hear its message when the world does not see believers agreeing with and getting along with other believers, let alone truly loving one another?
Some may argue that the text today is concerning partaking of communion. Paul says: Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. The defense then by some is simply not to partake of communion, so there can be no guilt. I have experienced times when some people have refrained from taking communion on the grounds that they were not right with a fellow believer. I admit that at a time I myself believed that to be the right thing to do. The truth is though, that if we decide to not partake of communion, something Jesus Himself said we should do saying: “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”… “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”, we then violate a commandment of Jesus, choosing to hold on to the thing we have against a fellow believer rather than celebrating what Christ has done for us. Jesus taught us to pray: …and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us…(Matthew 6:12) Our forgiving others does not require that we let them know what it is that they did wrong. We ask that our sins be forgiven the way we forgive others. Here is the way our sins were forgiven, as Jesus hung on the cross to pay the price for the sins of all mankind, He said: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” That is how we can and should forgive others.
If the church truly wants to walk in the fullness of the kingdom of heaven, perhaps we need to focus a little less on convincing others that we have the answers to the power of the kingdom and focus a little more on community, the common unity we have with other believers, the unity we have in Jesus Christ, the cross and the resurrection and in the same Holy Spirit, which dwells in every believer.
‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’